In Focus: The Premier League stars who lit up Matchday 1

Matthew Hill
LiveScore
Aleksandar Mitrovic netted twice against Liverpool to earn Fulham a precious point
Aleksandar Mitrovic netted twice against Liverpool to earn Fulham a precious point

The Premier League roared back into action over the weekend with shocking scorelines and dazzling debuts grabbing the headlines in equal measure.

Champions Manchester City got their title defence off to a perfect start at West Ham thanks to Erling Haaland’s brace on debut, while two goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic saw Liverpool held to a 2-2 draw at Fulham.

Read on to see who joins that deadly duo in our stars of Matchday 1.

Erling Haaland (Manchester City)

Over the years, countless summer signings have failed to live up to the hype in the Premier League — but Haaland clearly has no intention of joining that group.

Manchester City’s new No9 delivered a performance at West Ham that will have sent shivers down the spines of defenders up and down the land, netting both of his side’s goals in a 2-0 win.

After a quiet opening 35 minutes, the Norwegian suddenly burst into life when latching onto Ilkay Gundogan’s through ball before being hauled down by substitute keeper Alphonse Areola.

The resulting spot kick was emphatically dispatched into the bottom corner and the 22-year-old would double his tally on 65 minutes thanks to another frightening turn of pace.

Blistering clear of Hammers defender Ben Johnson, Haaland then effortlessly opened up his body and stroked an unstoppable effort into the far corner.

At full-time, the former Borussia Dortmund man was bemoaning the fact he did not manage a hat-trick — who knows what heights he may scale for the Citizens in the months ahead.

Erling Haaland bagged with both of his shots on target against West Ham
Erling Haaland bagged with both of his shots on target against West Ham

Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham)

Haaland was not the only striker to dominate back pages this weekend, with Fulham forward Mitrovic enjoying a memorable return to the English top tier against Liverpool.

The Serbian striker, 27, racked up a record-breaking 43 goals in the Championship last season as the Cottagers soared to the title yet has still seen his Premier League credentials questioned this summer.

This performance, running riot against a defence that only conceded 26 times last term, was the perfect riposte to his critics and a brutal reminder of how effective the imposing No9 can be.

His first goal was a classic centre forward’s header, bulldozing over the top of Trent Alexander-Arnold to plant Kenny Tete’s cross beyond Alisson.

Mitrovic has more than physicality in his locker however, as displayed with some fabulous footwork that led Virgil van Dijk to bring him down for a spot kick — one he duly drilled home.

Premier League record scorer Alan Shearer said: "Mitrovic gave the back four a really uncomfortable afternoon and there are not many times you can say that with Liverpool, particularly Van Dijk."

William Saliba (Arsenal)

It has been a long time since Arsenal could consider themselves in possession of a truly world-class centre-back — but they may just have found one in William Saliba.

A five-cap French international, Saliba actually joined the Gunners in 2019 but has spent the last few seasons on loan in his homeland with Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille respectively.

Finally given his debut for the Gunners in Friday’s season opener at Crystal Palace, the 21-year-old was voted man of the match for a near-flawless display in a dogged 2-0 win.

Pivotal in helping Mikel Arteta’s side keep a clean sheet, Saliba boasted a 100% aerial duel success rate and registered seven ball recoveries, six clearances and no end of crunching tackles.

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher both purred over the performance at full-time, while his boss was equally gushing in his praise.

Arteta said: "You don’t really see that. At 21 years old, debut in the Premier League, against this opponent, against physical players — and to resolve that situation the way he has done it. 

"With that composure, with that calmness and with that presence. So big credit to the boy."

Pascal Gross (Brighton)

Sometimes, players seem to enjoy facing a particular opponent more than any other — and that certainly rings true for Pascal Gross and Manchester United.

The German midfielder, 31, grabbed both of Brighton’s goals as the Seagulls sealed a first ever win at Old Trafford, ruining Erik ten Hag’s first Premier League game as Red Devils boss in the process.

Remarkably, six of Gross’ 19 Premier League strikes have come against United, a stat even the man himself finds quite baffling.

Asked about the impressive record, he said: "I don't know why! I would love to score more goals against other teams, but it is always against them."

Though he made both of his finishes look easy on Sunday afternoon, it is normally creativity the Mannheim native is better known for.

His 60 chances created last season was the third-best total among the division’s central midfielders, with only Kevin De Bruyne and James Ward-Prowse carving out more openings.

Pascal Gross is one of the Premier League's most creative midfielders
Pascal Gross is one of the Premier League's most creative midfielders

Dejan Kulusevski (Tottenham)

When Tottenham stumped up £60m to sign Everton forward Richarlison last month, some outsiders speculated he would take the place of young Dejan Kulusevski in Spurs’ front three.

However, the young Swede has arguably been the most impressive performer of the Antonio Conte era and showed he is more than worthy of a starting berth with a brilliant display to help down Southampton.

Having fallen behind to a James Ward-Prose strike, it was Kulusevski who cut in from the right flank onto his favoured left foot and bent a glorious cross onto Ryan Sessegnon’s head for an equaliser.

And at the heart of all things good for his side all afternoon, it was fitting that he put the final touch on an impressive 4-1 triumph by coolly guiding a strike into the far corner on 63 minutes.

Conte called on his matchwinner to stay focused in his post-match press conference, saying: "Dejan has continued in this way [from last season] but he has to continue to work with his behaviour and ambition.

"He has a lot of ambition — he wants to become one of the best players in his role. I think this ambition is good, if he is humble and works to continue to work he can do that."

Tags

Manchester CityErling Braut HaalandFulhamAleksandar MitrovicArsenalWilliam SalibaBrighton & Hove AlbionPascal GrossTottenham HotspurDejan KulusevskiPremier League
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