"Hit for six" is a cricket term; it’s that sport’s rough equivalent of a homer and you get six runs for it. You’re going to hear that phrase a lot this week because of three remarkably lopsided wins in the English Premiership this weekend.
Arsenal, led by Theo Walcott’s hat-trick, slammed six past Blackpool. Chelsea rolled to their second-straight 6-0 win of the season, this time over hapless Wigan. Frenchman Nicolas Anelka, who laughed off an 18-match national team suspension earlier in the week, scored twice for the defending champions.
Those two clubs are expected to fight for the league title and were playing bottom-feeders. It’s a bit tougher to explain Newcastle’s 6-0 demolition of Aston Villa on Sunday morning.
A hat trick by 21-year old striker Andy Carroll, playing in only his second career Premiership game, led the recently-promoted Northerners to a huge win over a team that had hoped to compete for a European slot – but saw its manager, Martin O’Neill, quit just five days before the season began.
American coach Bob Bradley’s name has been bandied about to fill the Villa vacancy, but the current USA skipper told the BBC this weekend that while interested, he has had no direct contact with the club or their American owner Randy Lerner.
Sunday wrapped with high drama at Craven Cottage: An own goal, a penalty save, a header by the same man, Brede Hangeland, who had just put it past his own keeper, and Fulham wound up with a remarkable 2-2 draw against Manchester United as the Premiership came alive Sunday.
Good thing, too, because after Saturday’s shellackings we were thinking it was going to be all about haves and have-nots this season.
The EPL weekend concludes today, with Manchester City at home to Liverpool in England’s version of Monday Night Football.
In Germany, Bastian Schweinsteiger closed perfectly at the far post to meet a long Franck Ribery cross in stoppage time Friday night to give Bayern Munich an opening 2-1 win over VfL Wolfsburg as the Bundesliga season began. That finish spoiled the night for Steve McLaren, who became the first Englishman to lead a German side as he takes over at Wolfsburg.
Ruud van Nistelrooy signalled that he has lost none of his touch in front of goal, getting both for Hamburg SV in a 2-1 win over Schalke, while there was success for newly-promoted FC St. Pauli, which scored three in the last seven minutes to win 3-1 at Freiburg.
Hoffenheim gave up a third minute penalty, but scored four in the final 23 minutes of the first half to hammer Werder Bremen, 4-1 and Bayer Leverkusen opened with a 2-0 win at Borussia Dortmund in Michael Ballack’s return to German club football.
Jose Mourinho was out the door so fast that he almost tripped over the European Cup, but Inter Milan still has Samuel Eto’o, Diego Milito and Co. so for at least one night Rafa Benitez looked like a pretty good replacement for The Special One. Let back into the match by a comedic Roma defensive mistake that gifted Goran Pandev a goal, Inter then used two from Eto’o to win the Italian Super Cup Saturday night at the San Siro.
Barcelona rode Lionel Messi’s hat trick to a 4-0 victory and a 5-3 aggregate triumph over Sevilla in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup. That’s probably just what Barca ordered ahead of its title defense, but hardly what Sevilla would have wanted as they face a Champions League second leg match against Sporting Braga on Tuesday. Braga won that first leg 1-0 and drew 0-0 Saturday with Vitoria Setubal in the Portuguese league.
In France, Marseille righted the ship after two straight defeats, Gabriel Heinze starting them to a 2-0 win over Lorient, but Toulouse tops the table after its third straight win.
AMERICANS: That was Villa’s Brad Friedel who saw six fly past him at St. James; backup keeper Brad Guzan was on the bench. In the 18 but DNP was young defender Eric Lichaj. Tim Howard saw Everton slide to a 1-1 draw against Marcus Hahnemann and Wolves. Stuart Holden went the distance in Bolton’s 3-1 hammering of West Ham.
In France, Carlos Bocanegra and St. Etienne played a 0-0 draw against his old club, Rennes. In Germany, Jermaine Jones looked very good again for Schalke, albeit in a loss; Michael Bradley saw Moenchengladbach draw 1-1 with Nurnberg while Steve Cherundolo’s Hannover got a 2-1 win over Ricardo Clark’s Frankfurt. Clark did not play. In Scotland, Mo Edu helped Rangers to a 3-0 win over Hibs.