EPL

Premier League fixtures 2021-22: Salah and Sterling looking to continue prolific opening-day records

By Sports Desk June 16, 2021

The Premier League fixture release for the 2021-22 has thrown up some intriguing opening-day clashes.

Champions Manchester City head to Tottenham, with the future of Harry Kane and speculation over which club he might be representing by August 14 still up in the air.

Arsenal are at newly promoted Brentford, while there is a familiar feel to Liverpool travelling to Championship winners Norwich City.

Manchester United v Leeds United is very much in the conversation when it comes to what might be the pick of the initial games, while Chelsea's quest to add domestic dominance to European glory begins against Crystal Palace.

Here, with help from Opta, Stats Perform looks at some of the landmark numbers thrown up by the big kick-off and who might be gunning for a piece of history this time around.

Chelsea to soar against the Eagles?

Still without a manager and facing a close season of extensive squad turnover, Palace certainly have a daunting assignment in prospect at Stamford Bridge against Thomas Tuchel's Champions League winners.

Chelsea boast the biggest opening-day win in Premier League history, a 6-0 thrashing of West Brom in August 2010.

That result replaced the previous most emphatic triumph by Liverpool, who won 6-1 away from home back in 1994. Their opponents? Crystal Palace.

Klopp and Salah send out another welcome party

For a third consecutive season, Liverpool will face a promoted team in their first match of the campaign, having thumped Norwich 4-1 at Anfield in 2019-20 before sharing a 4-3 thriller with Leeds last time around.

Mohamed Salah fired a hat-trick against Marcelo Bielsa's men – the ninth opening-day treble in the competition – and was also on target versus the Canaries.

Salah's six goals on the first weekend place him joint third in the Premier League's all-time standings, level with Leicester City's Jamie Vardy. Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer (eight) have more matchday one goals than any other player.

Rooney's five assists leave him out in front on 13 goal involvements, ahead of Shearer and Teddy Sheringham (10).

More capital punishment from Sterling?

Alongside Salah, Raheem Sterling is the only other active Premier League star to have an opening-day hat-trick to his name, having claimed the matchball in Manchester City's 5-0 win at West Ham in 2019.

Overall, the England winger has five goals and two assists on matchday one, and Pep Guardiola's side will be looking to continue a habit of making flying starts.

City have won all of their opening day fixtures in Guardiola's previous five seasons in charge. Indeed, they have won each of their past 10 games on the opening weekend, dating back to a 4-0 triumph over newly promoted Swansea City in 2011.

However, the last time they failed to take an initial three points was in a 0-0 draw at Spurs in 2010. Additionally, in three visits to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in all competitions since its 2019 opening, City have suffered three defeats and failed to score a goal.

Gunners must keep cool to avoid Bees sting

History is to repeat itself on a historic day for Brentford. Arsenal's visit will be their first top-flight game for 74 years, since a 1-0 defeat to the Gunners in May 1947.

Thomas Frank might be able to count on ill-discipline afflicting Mikel Arteta's side if Arsenal's previous efforts are anything to go by.

No team in Premier League history has collected as many as the north London club's six opening-day red cards, one more than Charlton Athletic – a fairly remarkable return given the Addicks were relegated in 2007 and are yet to return.

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  • Tokyo Olympics: Mixed bag for the Netherlands while Walls takes omnium gold for Great Britain Tokyo Olympics: Mixed bag for the Netherlands while Walls takes omnium gold for Great Britain

    The Netherlands had reason to celebrate and cause for concern at the Izu Cycling Centre on Thursday, while Great Britain's Matthew Walls stormed to victory in the omnium.

    Olympic debutant Shanne Braspennincx capped an incredible comeback from a heart attack six years ago to take gold in the women's keirin final, as the Netherlands defended the title Elis Ligtlee won in Rio 2016.

    However, her triumph came after team-mate Laurine van Riessen had crashed out in the quarter-finals, taking Team GB's Katy Marchant with her.

    Van Riessen was knocked unconscious and had to be taken off the track on a stretcher before she was transferred to hospital for further checks.

    "Coach Hugo [Haak] said that our team doctor is with her. I sent her a message but it all went so fast and I had to go on," Braspennincx said when asked about Van Riessen's injury.

    "Hugo does that. He told me she's in good hands; you have to focus on your own race now. I was worried about her, she went to the hospital, but at that moment I had to make the switch and focus on myself.

    "It's tough to see. I know it's part of [racing] but this is what you really don't want and she was in very good shape as well."

    Van Riessen clipped the wheel in front of her as she was about to enter the final lap, sliding straight into the unfortunate Marchant in the process.

    "I think that’s just bike racing, wrong place, wrong time, I just hope everyone's okay that was in the crash. I think I'm okay, just a bit battered and bruised but I'm alright," Marchant told BBC Sport.

    "I needed to finish the race in case there was something that came up on the results. I'm not really sure what happened, wrong place, wrong time, I just got caught up it in it."

    A SURREAL SUCCESS

    Braspennincx's triumph is made even more remarkable by the heart attack she suffered in 2015.

    The Netherlands have now won the women's keirin event on two of the three times it has been held at the Olympic Games, and it brought up the nation's 10th gold medal on the track.

    She finished ahead of Ellesse Andrews – the second woman from New Zealand to win an Olympic medal in the velodrome after Sarah Ulmer in 2004 – and Canada's Lauriane Genest. 

    "I'll have to let it sink in first, it feels surreal," Braspennincx said. "I can't believe it. I don't know what it was like. I went in the moment, I had to go and I held it. 

    "I think every athlete can say it's a very long [journey], especially this one. In Rio I was a spare rider because I had an injury. I had a long way to come back, and to celebrate it like this is worth it.

    "There is amazing medical stuff still behind me. They tested me through, through and through in order to get the green light. In January 2016 I got to be an athlete again. My journey started again, really, really slow, and with a lot of stuff back. And now I am here in 2021, all good."

    TEAM GB'S WONDER WALLS

    Despite Marchant's disappointment, there was joy for Team GB in the men's omnium, as 23-year-old Olympic debutant Walls claimed gold in dominant fashion.

    Walls, who tested positive for COVID-19 in March, accumulated 153 points across the four disciplines – with the entire event condensed into the space of three hours – to finish ahead of Campbell Stewart and defending champion Elia Viviani.

    It brought up Team GB's first track cycling gold at Tokyo, adding to their successes in the BMX and mountain biking events.

    Team GB have now won 16 golds and 50 medals overall at the close of racing at the velodrome. Ed Clancy (2012) and Mark Cavendish (2016) have previously taken bronze and silver in the men's omnium, while Laura Kenny goes into Sunday's women's event as the two-time defending Olympic champion.

    "I managed to get a good lead coming into the end. It's been a hard day but I came into that points race with a bit of a lead and breathing room," Walls told BBC Sport.

    Britain are the first nation to win three Olympic medals in the men's omnium, while Team GB have now won gold in nine of the current 12 events held on the cycling track at the Games.

    Stewart's silver, meanwhile, means New Zealand have taken 19 medals in Tokyo, surpassing their record tally of 18, set five years ago in Rio.

    WORLD CHAMPION LAVREYSEN ENDS KENNY'S DEFENCE

    Jason Kenny's defence of his Olympic gold in the men's sprint came to an end as he was overcome by Dutch world champion Harrie Lavreysen.

    Kenny took gold in London and Rio, but the 33-year-old's reign is now over, and Lavreysen looks good to push on for the biggest prize.

    The Dutchman was pushed hard in his two races against Kenny, however, with the Team GB rider forcing a two-lap sprint in the second quarter-final heat before Lavreysen pulled away on the final turn.

    Lavreysen must get past another Briton in the semi-finals, with Jack Carlin up next.

    Carlin looked sharp and showed complete control in his quarter-final win over Maximilian Levy of Germany.

    "Another day in the bag, see what happens tomorrow but the legs are feeling good, it's all to play for tomorrow," Carlin told BBC Sport.

    "My legs are feeling alright, they're sore but everyone's are sore at this point of the week. I think we take each race as it comes, stick to our principles, keep calm and what will be, will be."

    Asked about Kenny's valiant effort, Carlin added: "I think you saw today he was struggling a bit from fatigue. He still went out there and gave it his all, that's what Olympic champions do."

    The other semi-final will see Denis Dmitriev face the Netherlands' Jeffrey Hoogland, meaning the Dutch are guaranteed a medal.

  • Tokyo Olympics: Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe earn bronze for USA in thriller Tokyo Olympics: Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe earn bronze for USA in thriller

    Megan Rapinoe scored direct from a corner as she and fellow United States veteran Carli Lloyd hit doubles to sink Australia 4-3 in the Olympic Games bronze medal game.

    Australia's replies came from Sam Kerr, Caitlin Foord and Emily Gielnik in the seven-goal feast at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium.

    It was 36-year-old Rapinoe and 39-year-old Lloyd who stole the show, though, on what may prove to be farewell appearances for the superstar duo.

    Whether they play on in the short term for the national team remains to be seen, but this was likely a final outing at the Olympics for both, and they went out in style.

    Rapinoe opened the scoring in the eighth minute when her wicked in-swinging corner from the left evaded everybody and found the net.

    Kerr levelled seven minutes later with her 48th goal for Australia – a new national team record – when her shot proved too powerful for Adrianna Franch, but it was soon Rapinoe's time again.

    The standout player from the 2019 World Cup smashed in her second goal of this game on the volley, connecting sweetly from around 12 yards after Alanna Kennedy sliced an attempted clearance.

    Lloyd, who became the outright second most-capped player in US history by making her 312th appearance, got in on the goals just before half time. Her thumping left-footed shot across goal found the right corner, putting the US 3-1 up.

    Lloyd scored again in the 51st minute after another Kennedy error, this time a weak header back to her goalkeeper allowing Lloyd a clear run on goal, with the striker slotting home.

    That made her the US team's all-time highest scorer in Olympic women's football with 10 goals. Lloyd won Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012, with Rapinoe also on the triumphant latter team in London.

    Australia got back into this game with a header from Foord after 54 minutes, and Kerr headed against the left post two minutes later. Substitute Gielnik rattled in a delicious late third for Australia, but they could not find a fourth.

  • Tokyo Olympics: Durant and Team USA roll with the punches to bring gold closer Tokyo Olympics: Durant and Team USA roll with the punches to bring gold closer

    Kevin Durant admitted Team USA were caught with "a nice haymaker" from Australia before clambering to their feet and reaching another Olympic final.

    The Americans scored a 97-78 victory at the Saitama Super Arena, putting a fourth successive gold medal at the Games within reach.

    But at one stage in the second quarter Durant and co trailed 41-26, with the Australian Boomers making a fast and purposeful start to the semi-final that they could not maintain.

    It was at the point the USA side fell 15 points behind that they took a timeout, and from that stage onwards they dominated, Durant leading the team with 23 points and nine rebounds.

    Australia shot just 25 of 61 – 41 per cent – from the field, whereas USA managed 38 of 74 and dominated the boards 44-29 in what became a convincing victory.

    "We've been down 15 in games before and came back," Durant said. "It doesn't matter what level it was at, or where it's at. A lot of guys have been in that position before. We know how to handle ourselves.

    "We kept our composure and we knew that we could get back into the game pretty fast, if we got stops and got out and ran. So we've got to give credit to Australia because they came out and hit us with a nice haymaker, but we were able to get back up and get that lead back."

    It came as no surprise to Durant that Australia began as they did.

    "We knew Australia would come out fast and hit us with a nice punch. We know that teams want to get us down early, see how we respond," said the Brooklyn Nets star.

    "A lot of these guys got continuity for years and years, so they know how to play with each other. I feel like a lot of teams are expecting us to fold early.

    "We stuck with it, stuck with our principles, made a couple of switches on defence, and we were able to get some momentum going into the half. Guys came out with that intensity, making shots as well."

    The 32-year-old Durant is chasing a third gold medal of his Olympic career, having played on the London 2012 and Rio 2016 teams.

    For Jrue Holiday, who is coming off an NBA championship-winning season with the Milwaukee Bucks, this is a first Olympic experience.

    Like Durant, he saw no need for panic after Australia began Thursday's semi-final so strongly.

    By half-time, Australia's lead had been cut to just 45-42, and a 32-10 third quarter for the USA showed their firepower.

    "I think we played the game long enough to know that there's always a chance," Holiday said. "So we took that six minutes in the second quarter and kind of ramped it up, and went into half-time in the position that we liked."

    Australia have finished fourth in Olympic men's basketball four times, never going further and claiming a medal.

    They will have a bronze-medal game to come in Tokyo and must pick themselves up to go again.

    Jock Landale scored 11 points against the USA, and the Melbourne United star accepted it was tough for Australia to keep up their early high level.

    "It's hard. It's really hard. They're great basketball players, they're smart basketball players," Landale said.

    "They figure out what you're doing and they just find ways to exploit it. I think we started turning the ball over in that third quarter and they were just living in transition, and that's tough to beat. They're the most athletic guys in the world, so I think that's probably where we lost them."

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