11 Best Premier League Opening Day Matches
When the Premier League returns after the summer break, excitement reaches ridiculous levels. After weeks of endless transfer rumours fans are desperate for some on-field action and sometimes, just sometimes, the opening fixtures provide all the thrills and spills we had been hoping for. Here are the 11 best contests since the beginning of the Premier League back in 1992.
11. Hull 2-1 Leicester 2016/17
Scarcely has a summer gone worse for a club than for Hull in 2016, and this was despite them getting promoted to the Premier League that year! Their manager, Steve Bruce, jumped ship and one of their best players, Mohamed Diame, chose a return to the Championship with Newcastle over a shot at the top flight. Mike Phelan was in charge of a skeleton squad that were odds-on to go down and they faced the Premier League champions on opening day. Whilst no one expected Leicester to retain their title, they did expect them to beat the Tigers – but the Yorkshire side sprung a huge surprise. Goals from Adama Diomande and Robert Snodgrass were enough to give Hull the victory and a slither of hope that they could just hack it in the Premier League.
10. Wimbledon 0-3 Man Utd 1996/97
The rest of this game has been largely forgotten, but one stroke of genius in the 90th minute is enough to rank it as one of the greatest opening day contests ever. That piece of wizardry came from the right boot of David Beckham who spotted Neil Sullivan wandering out from his goal from the halfway line. The 21-year-old lofted the ball over the stranded Scot and formally announced himself to the world. The rest is history.
9. QPR 0-5 Swansea 2012/13
Mark Hughes had a bright vision for QPR at the start of his first full season in charge, with Ji-Sung Park wearing the armband, Djibril Cisse leading the line and, erm, Clint Hill at the back. The sparkling dream of future glory was immediately shattered on the opening day of the season by a rampant Swansea who were lead by their exciting new signing Michu. The Spaniard opened the scoring and netted again, whilst Nathan Dyer also struck twice before Scott Sinclair came off the bench to complete the rout. The R’s won just four games that season, finishing bottom of the pile whilst the Swans managed a top-half finish.
8. Aston Villa 4-2 Man City 2008/09
Manchester City were enjoying some fresh investment and they had the likes of Martin Petrov and Elano on show as a result, but Gabriel Agbonlahor was too much for them in August 2008. Agbonlahor struck three times in seven minutes, which took the score from 1-1 to 4-1 in the second half and ended the game as a contest. Vedran Corluka’s 89th minute strike made no difference at all.
7. Everton 1-6 Arsenal 2009/10
Everton away is one of the tougher opening day fixtures you can be handed, but Arsenal made a mockery of that assumption in 2009 when they battered the Toffees in their own backyard. Goals from Denilson, Thomas Vermaelen, William Gallas, Eduardo and two from Cesc Fabregas gave the Gunners a six-goal lead before Louis Saha scored a last minute consolation. It was a statement of intent from Arsene Wenger’s men, but they couldn’t keep it up – losing nine times over the season and finishing third, 11 points behind winners Chelsea.
6. Middlesborugh 3-3 Liverpool 1996/97
One of the greatest opening day games ever, and also one of the best Premier League debuts as Fabrizio Ravanelli made a stunning impact at Middlesbrough. The Italian was a thorn in Liverpool’s side that day at the Riverside as three times the visitors took the lead and three times Ravanelli equalised. Stig-Inge Bjornebye, John Barnes and Robbie Fowler scored for Liverpool, but it was Ravanelli who grabbed the headlines.
5. Sheffield Wednesday 3-4 Spurs 1994/95
Tottenham had a really exciting team at the start of the 1994 season, spearheaded by the strike-force of Jurgen Klinsmann and Teddy Sheringham – it was a team that promised goals and they delivered on that promise at Hillsborough on opening day. Sheringham and Darren Anderton gave the Londoners a two-goal half-time lead but Wednesday were not to be deterred, drawing level thanks to Dan Petrescu and a Colin Calderwood own goal. Nick Barmby and Klinsmann restored the previous cushion before David Hirst made it a tense finish. Spurs kept up the entertainment all season, scoring 66 and conceding 58 over the campaign, finishing seventh.
4. Derby 3-3 Leeds 1996/97
Newly-promoted Derby were a goal down to Leeds at half-time in the first game of the 1996-97 season – nothing to shout about there. But then the second half happened. Ian Harte made it 2-0 to Leeds in the 72nd minute before Dean Sturridge and Paul Simpson scored twice in two minutes to level up. Lee Bowyer netted for Leeds with five minute to go which looked set to be the winner before Sturridge scored again to make it three-a-piece. Incredibly, Leeds scored just 25 more goals over the next 37 games and the two sides finished level on points at the end of the campaign.
3. Coventry 3-2 Chelsea 1997/98
It was an impressive Chelsea side that turned up to Highfield Road in August 1997, boasting the likes of Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Di Matteo and Gustavo Poyet – but they did not have a man like Dion Dublin in their ranks. The targetman equalised twice for Coventry, cancelling out goals from Frank Sinclair and Tore Andre Flo before he bagged an 88th minute winner for the Sky Blues. It was a big upset, especially after going behind twice, but there was plenty more to come from Dublin who finished joint top scorer in the league that season.
2. Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool 2016/17
An absolute thriller at the Emirates saw Arsenal take the lead before being embarrassed in front of their own fans by a rampant Liverpool – only to save some face with a comeback to make the scoreline respectable. It looked to be a cracking opening fixture between two heavyweights and it did not disappoint. Theo Walcott and Philippe Coutinho goals meant it was level at the break but Liverpool came out flying the second half with Adam Lallana, Coutinho again and Sadio Mane giving them a 4-1 lead. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Callum Chambers scored making it a nervy last 15 minutes for the visitors but they held on for a thoroughly entertaining win.
1. Arsenal 2-4 Norwich 1992/93
In the first ever season of the Premier League plenty was expected of Arsenal while Norwich looked likely to be fighting a relegation battle. Few were surprised when the Gunners took a two-goal lead over the Canaries at Highbury on the opening day of the campaign. However, Norwich came out for the second period a whole new side, with Mark Robins scoring twice whilst David Phillips and Ruel Fox also struck to give them an extremely unlikely victory. It was the sign of things to come as Norwich defied the odds all season and finished third (despite ending with a -4 goal difference). Arsenal, in contrast, performed well under-par, ending up in 10th.