Was it just me, or did it seem like there were a lot of penalty calls last week in the English Premier League? Every game, it seemed, featured a referee blowing a whistle and pointing to the spot! Players young and old placed the ball in the box, took their run and struck the ball, some saved, others rebounded, most ruffling the back of the net.
Refereeing was a hot topic on opening day, with the introduction of goal-line technology in the league not only being implemented but also used during Chelsea’s encounter with Hull City. Premier League referees certainly made headlines, with plenty of penalties awarded for many sides.
Believe it or not, abundant penalty calls on the first round of Premier League games isn't unheard of. Just last season, seven penalties were given by referees to open the 2012/2013 season.
This season, six penalties were called on day one, of which only four were scored. Penalties brought down giants like Arsenal, scared big teams like Liverpool and opened the account of strikers across the league. It’s penalty drama like that that keeps the fans watching!
Week one of EPL action saw six penalties awarded by the referee.
Here’s how they played out:
1) Jon Walters: The first piece of drama of the season saw Liverpool nearly concede a goal to Stoke City! Stoke were already down 1-0 after Daniel Sturridge scored the first goal of the 2013/2014 season earlier that day. However, they found a bit of luck when the club won a penalty in the 89th minute, after Daniel Agger touched the ball with his arm. Jon Walters stood over the ball, with the entirety of Anfield watching him, and struck the ball well, but a diving Simon Mignolet prevented a last-minute draw and gave Liverpool their first win of the season!
2) Rickie Lambert: Fresh off a midweek game with the English national team, Rickie Lambert opened his 2013 account in style, slotting home a game-winning penalty against West Bromwich Albion. Lambert scored for England in midweek to beat Scotland, and continued his goal-scoring heroics at The Hawthornes to spoil West Brom’s first home game.
3) Christian Benteke: A pair of penalties awarded to last season’s hottest new forward meant Aston Villa walked away from the Emirates with all three points! In the 28th minute, Aston Villa, down 1-0 after Olivier Giroud netted early, won a penalty, which Benteke stood over. Wojciech Szczęsny saved the initial shot but the rebound was headed in with ease to level the game at 1-1.
4) Christian Benteke: In the 60th minute, Gabriel Agbonlahor won a penalty outside the box, which Benteke once again claimed. With Arsenal dominating possession butunable to score, this second penalty would give the Villains a chance at going ahead, and this time around, Benteke wouldn’t be denied, and his shot beat the keeper, who dived the wrong way. Aston Villa would win the game 3-1.
5) Robert Soldado: Tottenham’s newest forward, Spanish international Roberto Soldado, opened his Premier League account in style, scoring the only goal of the game from the spot. Crystal Palace conceded the penalty in the 50th minute, which Soldado elected to take, and the Spaniard took his time running to the ball before smacking the shot into the left side netting, giving Tottenham a 1-0 win.
6) Frank Lampard: The final penalty awarded on the day saw Chelsea almost score an opening goal against Hull City. Goalkeeper Allan McGregor brought Fernando Torres down in the box, giving Frank Lampard a chance to score from the penalty spot, but McGregor saved his shot! Lampard would go on to score an excellent knuckleball free kick from well outside the box as Chelsea beat Hull City 2-0. That would be all the penalty drama for the first week of EPL action. If history is a precedent, we won’t see similar numbers for a few weeks. Perhaps these early penalties are the result of defenders getting the spider webs out of their arms and legs, or perhaps the referees just really missed blowing their whistles! Whatever the case may be, opening day penalty drama defined this week in English football, in a week with a total of 25 goals scored overall – let’s keep those goals flowing, shall we?