Saliba satisfied with dream debut | news

Tonight’s game against Crystal Palace was always going to be an interesting affair with it being the first match of the campaign and plenty of new faces on show, but it also ended up being an excellent night’s work for us as we claimed a 2-0 win .

As the dust settles at Selhurst Park, we’ve taken a look at some of the standout talking points from an encouraging start to the season:

A rapid start

It took us more than five and a half hours to open our Premier League account last season. This year, it took just 20 minutes.

And it was fair reward for our rapid start to the game. During the early exchanges we were a hive of activity, swarming round the Palace players, biting into tackles and moving well off the ball.

In the opening 25 minutes we had 62 per cent of possession, had five shots (two on target) to Crystal Palace’s none. We also had 17 touches in the opposition penalty area compared to just one for Palace.

So we were well worth the opening goal when it came. Gabriel Martinelli became the first Brazilian to net the opening goal of a Premier League campaign, and in the process we ended Palace’s run of nine hours and 52 minutes not conceding at Selhurst Park.

Off and running

Since the fixtures were announced in June, this always looked like being a real test to start the season.

We had won just one of our previous eight Premier League games against Crystal Palace, and lost 3-0 here just four months ago.

And we know just how hard it is to start with an away London derby on the first Friday of the season too, as last year we fell 2-0 to Brentford, and were always playing catch up from then on.

In fact this was the fifth time in top-flight history the season has kicked off on a Friday night, and the home side had won on each of the previous four occasions.

The hosts were predictably fired up for this one too, cheered on by their fans, but by the end of the night, it was only the traveling supporters who could be heard – belting out ‘we are top of the league’ at full volume.

Saliba’s impact

We included three debutants in the starting XI. Summer signings Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, as well as William Saliba – who has had to wait three years for his first appearance for the first-team.

The defender was just 18 when he joined from Saint Etienne in 2019, and three successful loan spells since then have only served to increase the excitement among the supporters around the France international.

And when the time came to finally see him in action, he didn’t disappoint.

He led the way with clearances (seven), won three of four duels, and won possession seven times (only Thomas Partey had more with eight).

What was really impressive was his pass competition rate. William completed 46 out of 49 passes (94 per cent) – higher than anyone else on the team.

It was a true Rolls Royce of a performance, earning him the Sky Sports Man of the Match award, and more importantly helping us to our first Premier League clean sheet for 10 games.

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