The first weekend of the 2020/21 Premier League season is firmly in our rear view mirrors and there were some truly fantastic opening fixtures, the Liverpool vs Leeds game being a clear stand out. The opening game can often be a cagey affair due to the level of expectation and anticipation built up over the summer but occasionally we can get some of the stand out clashes right at the very start.
After such a great opening day, I thought what better time to look at the five best opening day Premier League fixtures of all-time! Will any games from this season’s opening day make the cut? And will any of these games feature your club?
A few disclaimers before we begin, I am aware that the likes of both Manchester clubs and Villa haven’t played their opening game yet due to staggered start to the season, however, because their first games did not take place on the opening weekend, their games will not qualify. I will also primarily be looking at the games as whole, their entertainment value and their iconic status instead of brief moments of individual brilliance and quality. For example, even though Wimbledon vs Manchester United in 1996 contains Beckham’s goal from his own half (arguably the most iconic moment of any opening day) the game other than that was not as memorable and therefor does not make it onto my list.
So without further a do, here are the five best opening day Premier League games!
Wigan 0-1 Chelsea, 2005
As reigning champions, Chelsea were heavy favourites to see off a newly promoted Wigan side in 2005. And whilst Chelsea did eventually emerge victorious, it was Wigan who stole the hearts of many football fans with their defiant display. This is considerably more impressive when you think Wigan were playing in the English third tier only two years earlier. ‘Why include a 1-0 on a top five list?’ I might hear you cry. Well even though this game was short on goals, the game itself was end to end and is arguably one of the most iconic Premier League games altogether.
The Latics frustrated a very strong Chelsea side and created enough chances to snatch a win for themselves. However, this game is probably most fondly remembered for Hernan Crespo’s 93rd minute winner that flew into the top corner and the fact that this was an impressive start to yet another championship winning season for the Blues.
Man Utd 5-1 Fulham, 2006
Cast your mind back to the summer of 2006. Crazy by Gnarls Barkley spent 9 weeks at number one, Daniel Craig had yet to make his first outing as Bond and the 2006 World Cup in Germany had just taken place. From an England point of view, that summer’s World Cup was infamously remembered for the fiasco between a young Rooney and Ronaldo in England’s quarter final clash against Portugal.
The world was eagerly waiting to see if Rooney and Ronaldo would break into a fight the second a ball was kicked or if they would put what had happened behind them and produce a phenomenal display. Luckily for United fans it was the latter.
Although the game was largely remembered for the build up, the game itself wasn’t to shoddy either. The match saw the Red Devils take a 4-0 lead inside the first 19 minutes which must go down as one of them most hectic opening 20 minutes to anyone’s Premier League season. This surely has to go down as the greatest opening day game Old Trafford has ever seen!
Aston Villa 4-2 Manchester City, 2008
Believe it or believe it not, Man City weren’t always expected to roll over every team in their path. People who remember football before Sheikh Mansour’s takeover might remember this classic curtain raiser.
It might surprise you to know that most of the coverage in the build up to this game was actually centred around Gareth Barry and his potential move to Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool, not the impending Manchester City takeover. Barry actually helped put himself back in favour with the Villa faithful with an assist for Agbonlahor’s hattrick goal. Agbonlahor’s triple is even more impressive when you consider it was a perfect hattrick and he scored it in all of seven minutes. In fact, all of this game’s 6 goals came in an action packed second half. This truly was a crazy game and should be mentioned when considering the best Premier League opening fixtures.
Everton 1-6 Arsenal, 2009
This one is included mainly because of how much of a shock it was and still is, for that matter. Arsenal thrashing the Toffies in their own backyard would be a standout of any season, the fact it happened on the opening day makes it even more iconic.
Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool, 2016
From an Arsenal opening day win, to an Arsenal opening day defeat. Arsenal against Liverpool would be a highlight in any season and the fact this happened right at the very start makes it even more astonishing. This seven goal thriller had it all. Two Premier League heavy weights battling it out for the first three points of the season, missed penalties, fabulous individual debate goals and iconic team celebrations.
The action started with Theo Walcott missing a penalty and then instantly redeeming himself by scoring the opening goal of the tie. Then Coutinho produced a wonder strike to level things going into the break.
In the second half, Liverpool raced into a 4-1 lead, being capped off by a fabulous individual goal from Sadio Mane on his Red’s debate. Arsenal then proceeded to pull two back to set up a nervy end to the game. This game truly was end to end and was arguably one of the best games of the 2016/17 season right at the very start.
Liverpool 4-3 Leeds, 2020
Remember at the beginning of the list when I asked if any games from this season would make the cut? Well you probably should have guessed that this game would. I am finishing off my list with back to back Liverpool 4-3 wins and truthfully this was the game that inspired me to create this list.
I don’t think I can remember a game that was this open, especially on the opening day. On Match of the Day, Guy Mowbray even stated ‘this might just go down as one of the greatest opening day games in Premier League history!’ and honestly, I wouldn’t disagree with him.
The game already garnered quite a bit of media attention, largely due to the fact that it was a clash containing two of the biggest and oldest names in English football, and the fact it was the Premier League champions facing off against the champions of the Football League. But no one could have seen this coming. Both teams just forgot how to defend for 90 minutes! We can’t complain though, this made for a very entertaining watch.
Some of the stand out moments include Salah’s wonder strike from the edge of the box, Salah’s last minute penalty and all three of Leeds’s expertly crafted and taken goals.
Whether this will go down as the greatest opening day fixture of all-time is unclear, however, I think this game will be remembered for years to come. The only thing the game was missing, was the inclusion of fans. Just imagine how much better it would have been with a packed and booming Anfield!
There you have it! My top five Premier League opening day fixtures. Please share and comment if you think there are any games that deserve to be in the top five but aren’t. I know there is probably some great games I have missed. I am excited to hear other fan’s opinion. For more great football content, be sure to check Fanhub out on the regular.