10 talking points from Premier League action including Ronaldo, Lukaku and Liverpool

By Joe Krishnan

The Premier League returned after two weeks of international action and the football on display did not disappoint.

Cristiano Ronaldo made his hotly-anticipated return to Old Trafford as a Manchester United player for the first time since 2009 and there were no troubles for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side as they thumped Newcastle.

But that was not the only noteworthy homecoming, with Romelu Lukaku back at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea brushed aside Aston Villa after a closely fought encounter.

In the London derby, Tottenham fell to a heavy defeat at Crystal Palace but rivals Arsenal also secured their first victory of the season to ease the pressure on Mikel Arteta.

Manchester City beat Leicester at the King Power Stadium, Wolves joined them in the winners’ circle after easing past Watford and West Ham settled for a goalless draw at Southampton.

Elsewhere, Brighton maintained their impressive start with a narrow win at Brentford to stay unbeaten under Graham Potter.

Liverpool beat Leeds on Sunday, with Merseyside neighbours Everton playing Burnley on Monday night.

We take a look at 10 talking points from this weekend's games.

1. Ronaldo’s dream return

“It just had to be him,” said the dozens of commentators said in unison during their coverage of Manchester United’s win over Newcastle United.

It speaks volumes about his class that Ronaldo is expected to deliver goals, as if it is simply inevitable. He had scored 551 in the 12 years spent away from Manchester at Real Madrid and Juventus.

But going back to the club where it all began in 2003 was a whole new challenge. Ronaldo isn’t getting any younger, although his energetic and clinical display could have fooled those not already aware of his age.

From the off, he was keen to get involved in the build-up and the fans sang his name at deafening levels, with chants of “Viva Ronaldo” reverberating around the sold-out stands.

That would have been enough motivation for Ronaldo to produce the goods and while his first goal was fortunate, tapping home after an error from Freddie Woodman, he still had the nous to anticipate the spill.

The second, though, was simply world-class as he drilled underneath Woodman with an unflappable sense of composure.

Any doubts they had over whether Ronaldo could produce the same magic in his previous six-year spell have been answered: he might be even better now.

2. Liverpool starlet Elliott suffers horror injury

Football can be so cruel sometimes.

To Harvey Elliott, the 18-year-old who did not deserve to be stretchered off just weeks after breaking into the Liverpool first team. And also to Pascal Struijk, who now has to live with the fact that his innocuous tackle has resulted in the youngster being sidelined.

There was no malice intended from Struijk and Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa was keen to point that out in his post-match interview. His eyes were firmly set on the ball and the Dutchman would perhaps argue he managed to get a foot on it.

The only problem was his trailing leg caught Elliott’s standing leg in the turf and resulted in a horrific ankle injury for the teenager.

There was no card initially given for the challenge, as the officials weighed up their decision in front of the noisy Elland Road crowd. And on the basis of the replays shown, it may well have been a yellow card challenge rather than red.

But as much as people may not like it, the consequential injury to Elliott affected the severity of the punishment — and perhaps that is right. Do the rules need to be amended in the case where a player suffers a serious injury? Or is ‘endangering an opponent’ automatically regarded as a red card?

That may be a potential discussion point for the Professional Game Match Officials’ Board (PGMOL) when they next meet, but for now, it can only be hoped that Elliott's injury is not as bad as first feared as he begins his recovery.

3. Arsenal finally get it right

Three defeats with an aggregate scoreline of 0-9 is the form of a newly-promoted club, not one that had spend over £160million on new talent.

Mikel Arteta knew it as well. But finally, the Spaniard can let out a long sigh of relief after seeing his Arsenal side battle to victory.

It may have been unconvincing again, with the supporters growing anxious that they could not break down a Norwich side who had conceded five — like their team did — against Manchester City.

Eventually, the goal came and it wasn’t the cleanest of strikes Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will have had in his career to seal a narrow 1-0 win.

But points are all that matters and the relief was palpable for Arteta, who can now look forward to building on that momentum with a trip to Turf Moor next Saturday for the Gunners.

4. Chelsea's Lukaku threat

For the first time since 2017, when Antonio Conte was in charge, Chelsea are striking fear into their opponents — and beating them as well.

Thomas Tuchel’s side are everything his predecessor Frank Lampard wanted to build but ultimately ran out of time to achieve: clinical, strong and air-tight in defence.

It helps to have an incredible finisher such as Lukaku leading the line, with the Belgian hardly involved but still contributing two wonderful strikes to make it three goals in three since his £98m move.

But at the other end, Edouard Mendy proved just as valuable. The Senegalese made a string of fine saves to deny Ollie Watkins, Tyrone Mings and Danny Ings.

In truth, the 3-0 scoreline flattered the European champions. But their impenetrable defence, combined with the devastating Lukaku leading the line, makes them serious title contenders.

5. Tanganga loses cool as Tottenham collapse

Tottenham had been the Premier League ’s surprise leaders before the international break after a hat-trick of 1-0 victories under new boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

But Spurs came crashing back down to earth after being put to the sword by an impressive Crystal Palace side, conceding three late goals at Selhurst Park.

Japhet Tanganga will have had to make some apologies to his team-mates for his role in the meltdown during the last 15 minutes of the match. The Tottenham defender had already been booked for his scuffle with Wilfried Zaha, having mercilessly shoved Ivorian winger to the ground on the left-hand side.

But his good fortune soon ran out after inexplicably going to ground with a risky sliding challenge on Jordan Ayew, picking up his second yellow card. He could have no complaints, even if he stated his case to referee Jonathan Moss.

Spurs will now have to pick themselves up after a poor display, even before Tanganga’s dismissal, and hope that Harry Kane finds his shooting boots not before too long.

6. Pep has found a rhythm

Pep Guardiola is not known for retaining the same starting XI for more than one game, let alone three.

But sure enough, the Manchester City head coach could hardly drop any of the players who participated in two 5-0 thrashings of Norwich and Arsenal respectively.

It meant that Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez had to wait for their chance on the bench again, with Ferran Torres and Gabriel Jesus thriving in the front three. Jack Grealish has also entered ‘undroppable’ territory with a goal and two assists.

Guardiola has often taken criticism for tinkering with his squad to maintain freshness, dubbed as ‘Pep Roulette’ due to the unrivalled squad depth he has at his disposal.

But it seems that finally, the Catalan has found a setup and team that are satisfying his demands, with three victories on the bounce.

7. Edouard can be Palace's new big hope

Several strikers have passed through the Selhust Park doors over the years.

Christian Benteke, Jordan Ayew and Jean-Philippe Mateta are still there, Michy Batshuayi had two loan spells but failed to shine, Connor Wickham’s career was plagued by injury and Alexander Sorloth barely got a chance.

But with their new £15m striker Odsonne Edouard, the Eagles are hoping they can soar again.

The Frenchman perhaps only expected to get a limited minutes after his arrival on deadline day from Celtic. But after replacing Ayew late on, he made an instant impact — quite literally as he scored 24 seconds after coming on — to double Palace's lead.

Edouard then notched a late third to make it a day to remember and equal their best London derby result in the Premier League.

There are exciting times ahead under Patrick Vieira, particularly if he can attract more players of Edouard's quality to south London.

8. Antonio’s embarrassment

He started the season in fine form with four goals and three assists in his opening three matches, so he hadn't done much wrong until Saturday. But it is fair to say Michail Antonio will be disappointed with himself after his red card against Southampton.

While it did not cost the Hammers any points in the goalless draw at St Mary's, the key forward will be suspended for their next game after being dismissed for two yellow cards in stoppage time - much to the annoyance of David Moyes.

The Scot made a rare move in publicly condemning the decision to send off the 30-year-old, labelling his challenge "stupid".

"I think Michail’s two yellows were justified from what I saw, but I’ve not seen them again to comment on them," he told reporters.

"I feel once you’ve had one, you certainly don’t lunge in for stupidly like that for a challenge and get a second one."

It will now be down to the likes of Said Benrahma and Jarrod Bowen to come up with the goods against Manchester United on Sunday, as Antonio reflects on his regrettable actions from the stands.

9. Brentford learn the hard way

They started with a win against Arsenal to set west London alight at the Brentford Community Stadium. Then Thomas Frank's electric Brentford side took away impressive draws from Crystal Palace and Aston Villa.

But at last, their resistance was broken by Brighton, who are enjoying a fine start to the season themselves.

That said, Leandro Trossard's 90th-minute strike was far more than they had deserved, with the Bees on top for the majority of the game and missing a host of chances, with seven shots to Brighton's four.

Profligacy is not something you would normally associate with Frank's side, with Ivan Toney the top goalscorer in the Championship last season.

But failing to take chances in the top flight means you will get punished — a lesson they must heed in time for their next trip to Wolves on Saturday.

10. Wolves start scoring at last

Has a team ever started the season as brightly as Wolves only to still be languishing in the relegation zone?

Their first three matches all ended in 1-0 defeats, despite having the better opportunities in all three encounters, and that was against Leicester, Tottenham and Manchester United made it tougher to bear.

Bruno Lage has found a system that works for his players and, had Adama Traore fitted the right shooting boots, they would have certainly taken points away from each of those games.

But at last, the Midlands outfit can speak literally rather than hypothetically.

Lage's men have finally fixed their problems in front of goal after on-loan striker Hwang Hee-chan grabbed his first for the club in the 2-0 win over Watford.

Now the Portuguese will be hoping the likes of Raul Jimenez and Francisco Trincao can help his side kick on and move away from the drop-zone before they get sucked in again.


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