Premier League's greatest opening matches - featuring Arsenal, Liverpool and Ravanelli

Seven-goal thrillers, shock results, and debut hat-tricks have helped set the tone for new seasons

The 2021/22 Premier League season got under way this weekend when promoted Brentford beat Arsenal on Friday.

Over the past 29 editions of the Premier League, there have been some classic matches on the opening weekend which have helped set the tone for the rest of the season. Here is a look back at some of the best.

Arsenal 2 Norwich City 4 (1992/93)

The Premier League’s inaugural weekend produced one of the most memorable opening day results in the league’s history. Arsenal, who finished fourth in the previous season’s old First Division, looked to be cruising when Steve Bould and Kevin Campbell gave them a 2-0 lead at half-time over a Norwich City side who had narrowly avoided relegation. However, with 21 minutes remaining, Norwich began their remarkable turnaround as Mark Robins and David Phillips scored in quick succession to level. Ruel Fox gave the visitors the lead before Robins grabbed his second to seal a famous win.

Crystal Palace 1 Liverpool 6 (1994/95)

Liverpool welcomed Crystal Palace to the Premier League with an absolute drubbing at Selhurst Park. Jan Molby opened the scoring from the penalty spot before Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler made it 3-0. Palace pulled one back through Chris Armstrong but an Ian Rush brace and a second from McManaman completed the rout.

Southampton 3 Nottingham Forest 4 (1995/96)

A seven-goal thriller at The Dell to kickstart the 1995/96 season when a Matt Le Tissier hat-trick proved in vain as goals from Colin Cooper, Ian Woan, and a double from Bryan Roy gave Forest the victory.

Middlesbrough 3 Liverpool 3 (1996/97)

A match that introduced one of the Premier League’s ultimate cult heroes. Signed for a club record £7m from Juventus, Italian striker Fabrizio Ravanelli made an instant impact with a hat-trick on his debut. Goals from Stig Inge Bjornebye, John Barnes, and Fowler ensured honours even at the Riverside. There was another 3-3 draw on this opening day at Pride Park between Derby County and Leeds United.

Watford 2 Wimbledon 3 (1999/00)

When Dean Blackwell was sent off in the 15th minute with the score at 1-1 – following goals from Carl Court for Wimbledon and Peter Kennedy’s equaliser from the penalty spot – it seemed an ideal opportunity for Watford to register a win in their first Premier League fixture. Instead, Marcus Gayle put the visitors ahead 13 minutes later and after Michel Ngonge levelled for Watford, 10-man Wimbledon clinched the win through a Richard Johnson own goal.

Leicester 0 Bolton 5 (2001/02)

Bolton were given little hope when they arrived in the Premier League, but Sam Allardyce orchestrated a superb debut season to finish ninth. The campaign got off to a spectacular start with a dominant win at Filbert Street. Kevin Nolan and Per Frandsen both scored braces, with Michael Ricketts grabbing the other goal.

Blackburn 5 Wolves 1 (2003/04)

Wolves were given a baptism of fire in their debut Premier League season as Blackburn dished out a thrashing at Ewood Park. Lorenzo Amoruso, David Thompson, and Brett Emerton put Blackburn 3-0 up before Steffen Iversen pulled one back for Wolves. However, a late Andrew Cole brace put the shine on an emphatic win. Wolves’ first trip to the Premier League proved short lived as they finished rock bottom.

Aston Villa 4 Manchester City 2 (2008/09)

Manchester City entered the season in a precarious position after then owner Thaksin Shinawatra had his assets frozen. The negativity around the club hardly improved after this opening day capitulation at Villa Park. John Carew opened the scoring early in the second half and Elano equalised in the 64th minute. But a seven-minute hat-trick from Gabriel Agbonlahor saw Villa run away with the win. Vedran Corluka then scored a late consolation. Less than two weeks later, City’s future was set on a far different course when the Abu Dhabi United Group completed their takeover.

Everton 1 Arsenal 6 (2009/10)

Back in the days when Arsenal were still guaranteed a top-four finish, they started the 2009/10 season with a sparkling display at Goodison Park. Denilson, Thomas Vermaelen, and William Gallas all scored in the first half, before a Cesc Fabregas brace and a late Eduardo goal made it 6-0. Louis Saha scored in injury time for what should be considered the ultimate consolation goal.

Arsenal 3 Liverpool 4 (2016/17)

Jurgen Klopp began his first full season as Liverpool manager in some style with this seven-goal thriller at the Emirates. The two teams went into the half-time break level at 1-1 after Philippe Coutinho’s injury time strike cancelled out Theo Walcott’s opener. But Liverpool came flying out of the traps in the second half, racing into a 4-1 lead as Coutinho scored his second followed by goals from Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made it 4-2 just one minute later before Calum Chambers reduced the deficit to one. Both teams poured forward in search of more goals but that was how the scores stayed.

Arsenal 4 Leicester 3 (2017/18)

What is it about Arsenal and high-scoring games on Premier League opening weekends? At least this time they were on the right side of the result. Kicking off the season on Friday night, two goals inside the first five minutes – from Alexandre Lacazette and Shinji Okazaki – set the tone for a humdinger at the Emirates. Jamie Vardy twice gave the visitors the lead, either side of Danny Welbeck’s first-half injury time goal, before late goals from Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud turned the match around for Arsenal.

Watford 3 Liverpool 3 (2017/18)

Less than 24 hours later, Vicarage Road witnessed a classic. Stefano Okaka gave the hosts an early lead and after Mane levelled for Liverpool, Abdoulaye Doucoure restored Watford’s advantage before the break. Two goals in five minutes from Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah turned the tide in Liverpool’s favour, but just as Watford looked set for defeat, Miguel Britos popped up in injury time to equalise and send the supporters into a frenzy.

Manchester United 4 Chelsea 0 (2019/20)

There was a real feel-good factor at Chelsea entering the 2019/20 season after club legend Frank Lampard was appointed manager, but his introduction to the Premier League couldn’t have gone much worse. Despite dominating large parts of the match, Chelsea were on the receiving end of a beating from a clinical United side, led by a Marcus Rashford brace and goals from Daniel James and Anthony Martial.

Liverpool 4 Leeds 3 (2020/21)

Led by the famed Marcelo Bielsa, there was great excitement surrounding Leeds as they made their long-awaited return to the Premier League. This opening weekend match offered a glimpse for what turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining season as Leeds pushed Liverpool to the edge. Leeds equalised three times, first through Jack Harrison after Mohamed Salah’s early penalty, then through Patrick Bamford following Virgil van Dijk’s 20th-minute goal, and finally when Mateusz Klich cancelled out Salah’s second. But a late Salah penalty completed the Egyptian’s hat-trick to earn Liverpool a tense win.

Updated: August 14th 2021, 9:25 AM
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