Premier Leagues under way in all four corners of the UK
All of the four major championships in the United Kingdom are under way for the 2011-12 season. The big kick-off took place in the English and Welsh Premier Leagues on Saturday whilst the Northern Irish championship and Scottish Premier Leagues are two and four weeks old respectively.
It may only be the opening weekend but The Barclays Premier League saw, just like in previous seasons, yet another round of games in which champions Manchester United enjoyed a late win whilst many of their title rivals dropped points to lesser teams. Sir Alex Ferguson’s United were being held 1-1 by West Bromwich Albion before a Steven Reid own goal gave the Red Devils three points with eight minutes remaining. This happened on a weekend in which Chelsea (0-0 v Stoke City), Arsenal (0-0 v Newcastle United) and Liverpool (1-1 v Sunderland) all faltered early on to ensure that the Premier League kept up its tendency to allow perennial champions United the opportunity to take advantage of opposition ineptitude. Bolton Wanderers take the plaudits for their 4-0 thrashing away to newly-promoted Queen’s Park Rangers whilst Wolverhampton Wanderers came from behind to defeat Blackburn Rovers 2-1 at Ewood Park. There were opening day draws for Fulham (0-0 v Aston Villa) and Wigan Athletic (1-1 v Norwich City) whilst Manchester City begin their campaign at home to Swansea City on Monday night. The game between Tottenham Hotspur and Everton, scheduled to be played at White Hart Lane on Saturday, was postponed due to the recent rioting that affected the area last week.
The Welsh Premier League also began this weekend with a win for the champions Bangor City. In a highly entertaining game Bangor gained some revenge for their Welsh Cup final defeat last season to Llanelli AFC by defeating the same opponents by three goals to two. Alan Bull scored twice including the winner in the 85th minute to ensure that the champions got off to winning ways. The biggest winners of the opening weekend were Neath Athletic for whom Lee Trundle scored twice in a 4-2 win over Aberystwyth Town. Elsewhere the other two teams enjoying a winning start to the new season were Newtown AFC (1-0 v Carmarthen Town) and Prestatyn Town (1-0 v Afan Lido) whilst five-time champions The New Saints could only draw 1-1 to Bala Town which was the same score line seen at the Airbus UK versus Port Talbot Town fixture.
The Carling Premiership sees familiar faces at the top of the table with both Linfield FC and Glentoran FC as the only teams to enjoy a 100% record after two matches. Defending title holders Linfield FC put five past Donegal Celtic this weekend with Philip Lowry getting on the score sheet four times in their 5-0 win. Glentoran FC scored both goals in their 2-0 win over Dungannon Swifts in the first half as an Adam McMinn own goal and Darren Boyce strike sealed the three points for the home side. Elsewhere Ballymena United and Cliftonville followed up opening day wins with closely fought draws with the former involved in a thrilling 3-3 at home to Glenavon and the latter saw a first half lead equalized midway through the second half by a Leon Knight goal in a 1-1 draw.
The Clydesdale Bank Scottish Premier League began a couple of weeks early this season and, having played four matches so far, Motherwell FC are currently enjoying life at the top of the table. They sealed their third win of the season this Saturday when defeating St Mirren 1-0 thanks to a Tom Hateley free-kick in the penultimate minute of the match. Both of the Old Firm also enjoyed wins as Glasgow Celtic thrashed Dundee United 5-1 while Glasgow Rangers made hard work of a 2-0 win away at Inverness Caledonian Thistle. With the Old Firm having a game in hand Motherwell may not find themselves in first place for very long. At the bottom of the table Aberdeen FC find themselves struggling along with Inverness and Perth-based St Johnstone as the only clubs in the league without a win. It is a blow for former Scotland coach Craig Brown who left Motherwell FC in controversial circumstances last season to take up the job at Pittodrie which has become something of a poisoned chalice in recent seasons.