Premier League Restart – A SuccessPeter Houghton
The best of Europe’s, if not the world’s, elite leagues is back!
Aston Villa, Sheffield United, Manchester City and Arsenal were the first four clubs to feel their way back to business with most of looking in on our television sets to gain some clues as to how the matches would be presented.
In many ways the experiences we have seen in Germany looked to be reflected at Villa Park and the Etihad Stadium, in terms of distancing, face masks and the necessary precautions as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first match, at Villa Park, between Aston Villa and Sheffield United provided the main talking point of the night when Villa goalkeeper appeared to carry Ollie Norwood’s free-kick over the line and into the side netting.
It wasn’t picked up by Hawkeye and it wasn’t referred to the VAR. The referee’s view was impeded by Orjan Nyland and a couple of Villa defenders. The match ended 0-0 giving Villa a point in their relegation battle. Sheffield United manager Chris Wilding said he’d just seen Del Boy wearing a Hawkeye watch!
Over at the Etihad, Arsenal lost 2 players due to injury in the first half-hour and will no doubt argue that this might be due to their unusual travelling expedition which only saw them arrive at Manchester Airport at 1700 hrs. Although it took City a while to get going, they finally did and despite a series of excellent saves by Leno, Raheem Sterling finally scored ahead of half time. In the second half De Bruyne doubled the lead from the penalty spot and local boy Foden concluded the scoring to make it 3-0 for the Blues.
However, just before the end Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson flattened Garcia, the City centre-back who needed medical attention and was finally carried off on a stretcher. So this tested the medical protocols to the limit as the referee added 11 minutes of stoppage time.
It appears that everything went as well as it could in the post-Covid-19 football world. There were no reports of test failures and Sky Sports commentator, Martyn Tyler told us that everything that could be in place was in place as he entered the stadium and made his way to the areas he was allowed to. He went on to say it was “surreal” to see the stadium with all the seats covered.
From the FSOA’s viewpoint, the organisation put in place by Bill & Keith at Villa Park and Steve and his team at the Etihad looked very professional, in line with the protocols and laid down a useful blueprint for the rest of the Premier League and the Championship to follow over the weekend.
We look forward to seeing post-match reports appear over the next couple of days.