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Lesser lights sparkle on opening weekend in England


By Martyn Herman

LONDON  – Despite a splurge of summer spending of more than 500 million pounds ($1.55 million) and counting, it was a free transfer from France who provided one of the standout moments of the Premier League’s big kickoff.

Ghanaian Andre Ayew, signed by Swansea City from Olympique de Marseille, capped a lively debut with a dazzling piece of footwork to score his side’s first equaliser in a 2-2 draw at champions Chelsea on Saturday.

Ayew was not alone either.

While some of the close-season’s marquee signings endured low-key, and in Petr Cech’s case horrible, starts it was the new names brought in by the league’s middle-ranking clubs who stood out.

Aston Villa’s Rudy Gestede filled the void left by Christian Benteke’s 32 million pounds sale to Liverpool, heading the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Bournemouth.

“Rudy is going to be a nightmare for a lot of defenders,” said Villa boss Tim Sherwood of the 26-year-old Benin striker who was bought for a fifth of the fee received for Benteke.

Benteke barely got a look-in during Liverpool’s 1-0 win at Stoke City the following day.

Newcastle United’s fans may have found a new goal-scoring hero in Georginho Wijnaldum as the 14.5 million pounds acquisition from PSV Eindhoven marked his debut with a goal in a 2-2 home draw with Southampton.

Wijnaldum, 24, was a Dutch title winner last season alongside Memphis Depay whose debut in Manchester United’s 1-0 triumph at home to Tottenham Hotspur lasted 68 frustrating minutes before he was substituted.

Newcastle’s other signings also made instant impacts.

Chancel Mbemba impressed, on and off the field, after arriving at St James’ Park wearing a bow tie and tuxedo, while Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic was booked five seconds after coming on as a substitute.


Further proof of the incredible spending power now wielded by the sides outside the league’s top four or five came in the form of French midfielder Yohan Cabaye.

The former Newcastle player, bought by modest Crystal Palace from Paris St Germain for 12.5 million pounds, scored in the London club’s 3-1 triumph at promoted Norwich City.

It is dangerous to base assumptions on the opening day of the season but there is a growing sense that, with an eye-watering new TV deal in place for next season, mere membership of the league means all clubs can now attract the kind of players that were once out of reach.

On the evidence of the weekend’s skirmishes, the usual title suspects might suffer some rude awakenings this season.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”70560″]

Chelsea did not sign a ‘galactico’ type of player in the summer while Arsenal’s only addition to a squad that finished third last time is former Stamford Bridge keeper Cech who was at fault for both of West Ham United’s goal in a shock 2-0 home defeat.

Manchester United did spend freely with Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger the most illustrious new attraction for the league, yet the former Bayern Munich powerhouse arrives with many suspecting he is a fading force.

All eyes will be on Raheem Sterling later on Monday when the most expensive English signing in history makes his first appearance for Manchester City following his switch from Liverpool.

However, if the last few days are anything to go by, it could be West Bromwich Albion’s Liverpool reject Rickie Lambert who steals the spotlight at The Hawthorns.

($1 = 0.6450 pounds)(Reuters)


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