The Premier League is back. As has been the tradition over the last few years, the opening fixture of the league will be played on Friday. This time, Jurgen Klopp's much-fancied Liverpool will take on newly-promoted team Norwich City FC. Rest of the matches from the first Gameweek will be played on Saturday and Sunday. The biggest match of the week is between Chelsea and Manchester United, set to be played on Sunday while defending champions Manchester City go to London to take on West Ham United. Another interesting fixture in this Gameweek is between Leicester City and Wolves, with both the teams having ambitions of breaking into the top six.
Over the years, Premier League has seen many explosive and memorable opening day fixtures. David Beckham was always destined to leave his mark in the sport, but back in 1996-97, he was still on his way to stardom. On the opening day fixture in 1996, Beckham scored an iconic goal, the one which stamped his case of being a special player. Alan Hansen, Fabrizio Ravanelli, Alexandre Lacazette have all played pivotal roles in the opening day fixtures, some of which will be spoken about for a very long time.
Here are some of the memorable opening day fixtures:
Aston Villa 3 - Manchester United 1, 1995/96
Probably Hansen would not have given much thought about his statement he gave after Manchester United's defeat against Aston Villa. Alex Ferguson's team was one of the favourites to win the title after missing out the previous season against Blackburn Rovers. But doubts persisted with the kind of players United had then, which included the likes of Gary Neville (20-years-old), Phil Neville (18), Paul Scholes (20), Nicky Butt (20), Ryan Giggs (21) and David Beckham (20).
As expected, Aston Villa thrashed their rivals 3-1, which prompted pundit Hansen to say, "You can't win anything with kids."
Well, the words backfired like the Bofors 40 mm gun. Ferguson's kids went on to win the league title that season and also the FA Cup.
Wimbledon 0 - Manchester United 3, 1996-97
Bend it like Beckham. From the halfway line. Manchester United were up against Wimbledon. It was the opening day fixture of a new season. Ferguson's team was coming into the season as defending champions. The team was already 2-0 up after goals from the talisman Eric Cantona and the ever-reliable Denis Irwin. Everything was going as per plan and the manager was pretty much satisfied.
Then came the clincher. Nobody asked for it. It was not the need of the hour. United would've easily won the game. But Beckham had an audacious idea. He collected the ball on the halfway line, and seeing the Wimbledon's goalkeeper way off the goalline, he lashed his right-footer, with his arms falling behind to take the momentum and his body shifting in an angular position. The ball went long, moved slightly in the air and fell inside the goal.
"Oh! That is absolutely phenomenal," roared the commentator, probably not doing enough justice to a worldie from the Englishman.
Middlesbrough 3 - Liverpool 3, 1996-97
Two memorable matches on the same opening day of a season. It never happened before and it never happened again. Liverpool were up against Middlesbrough, who were upbeat about signing a promising Italian striker Fabrizio Ravanelli from Juventus. The quality in Liverpool's ranks was much higher compared to their opponents but by the end of the match, there was no doubt about the quality of Ravanelli.
Three times Liverpool took the lead and three times Ravanelli equalised. The match ended in disappointment for Roy Evans' team as they were looking to clinch all three points. Middlesbrough did not win, but they went home being the happier of the two sides. > Ultimately that year, Middlesbrough got relegated and Ravanelli's short but eventful time in Premier League ended with a transfer to Marseille next season.
Everton 1 - Arsenal 6, 2009-10
Arsenal made a habit of going through a disappointing summer transfer window. Nothing was different before the start of 2009 season. No big transfers were done post Arsenal's fourth-place finish in the previous season. The mood among the fans was not great and on top of it, they faced a tricky opponent in Everton on the opening day of the new season.
Not many would've predicted the result of the match. At least not the scoreline. Arsenal went berserk, scoring a half a dozen goals away from home, to demolish Everton. Denilson, Thomas Vermaelen, William Gallas, and Eduardo scored a goal each while the influential Cesc Fabregas scored twice as Arsenal were up by 6-0. Louis Saha scored the only goal for Everton in the stoppage time before the match came to end much to the relief of the Goodison Park faithful.
"The team we have now gets there, and by that I mean it wins the Championship," Arsene Wenger said after a morale-boosting win.
Arsenal 4 - Leicester City 3, 2017-18
Another new season and another memorable opening day for Arsenal. In the previous season, Arsenal lost their first match of the league against Liverpool 3-4, and they did not want to start the 2017 edition on a similar note. Alexandre Lacazette, in his debut match, scored a brilliant header to help Arsenal take lead just 94 seconds into the match, only for Shinji Okazaki to equalise in the fifth minute.
Jamie Vardy then put the visitors ahead, before Danny Welbeck drew Arsenal level at the end of first-half. Leicester took the lead again with the help of Vardy's header and it looked like Arsenal will slide into another disappointing defeat. With only seven minutes remaining, Aaron Ramsey made 3-3 for Gunners and two minutes later, Olivier Giroud headed in a dramatic winner to ensure his team takes home all the three points. What a start to a brand new season!