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Weekend Review: Brilliant Brighton and fearless Fulham give bookies a boost in opening fixtures

Manchester United slip to defeat in Erik ten Hag’s first game while Erling Haaland and Darwin Nunez begin Golden Boot battle

The bookies got off to the perfect start as the Premier League returned with some punter-punishing results on the first weekend of the 2022-23 season.

Much-fancied Liverpool (1/3) were held to a 2-2 draw at Fulham (10/1) in the lunchtime kick-off on Saturday, with the newly promoted side more than holding their own against Jurgen Klopp’s side and in the process busting plenty of acca coupons in the first leg.

Championship hotshot Aleksandar Mitrović opened the scoring with a towering header for the Cottagers before Liverpool’s summer signing, Darwin Nunez, flicked home to level affairs.

Mitrović then won and converted a penalty to send Fulham into dreamland, before Mo Salah got himself on the scoresheet to steal a share of the points in West London.

William Hill had boosted the odds on Liverpool from 2/7 to evens (max bet £10) online and in its shops and so the person behind that stand-out offer was probably the toast of the office this morning.

Elsewhere, Erik ten Hag’s rein at Manchester United (4/5) got off to the worst possible start as Brighton (15/4) secured their first-ever victory at Old Trafford with a 2-1 win.

Graham Potter once again reaffirmed his credentials as one of the top young coaches in European football, as two goals from Pascal Groß was enough to take all three points despite Diogo Dalot pulling one back in the second half.

Kindred Group’s Ali Gill said: “The opening game of the weekend saw newly promoted Fulham hold Liverpool to a 2-2 draw which got us off to a flying start. Erik Ten Hag’s nightmare start to the season was a close second behind Liverpool’s draw as the best result of the weekend.

“Goals for the new boys Nunez and Haaland put a dent in the numbers, but overall, a fantastic welcome back to Premier League football on our side,” he added.

Haaland, having faced much derision for his failure to take his chances in the Community Shield, did what Manchester City (9/25) shelled out £51m for by putting West Ham (13/2) to the sword with both goals in a 2-0 win at the London Stadium.

Bet365’s Steve Freeth said: “Social media took great pleasure in making fun of Erling Haaland in the traditional curtain-raiser last weekend but he answered those critics in style with a brace at West Ham.

“The hordes of punters who have backed him to score 35 or more this season (biggest price 20/1 and now into 8/1) would’ve also taken great delight in his 79 minutes on the pitch in East London.”

Ladbrokes’ Alex Apati noted City’s fine performance meant the bookies took a knock across several markets.

He said: “Manchester United losing meant we avoided paying out on the Manchester double on Sunday which was well-backed, although we took a hit on City winning, City -1, City winning with a clean sheet and City winning both halves. Not to mention the most popular pick with punters for first goal scorer over the weekend – Erling Haaland.”

Betfred’s Alan Firkins told EGR how the title and top goal scorer odds were shaping up following the first weekend of the season.

He said: “For Manchester City it was very much a case of business as usual. A potentially tough test at West Ham was navigated with some style, and two smart, predatory interventions from new boy Erling Haaland surely provided a taste of things to come. The Norwegian is now 11/8 for the Premier League Golden Boot, and City just 8/15 to make it three titles in a row.”

Matchbook’s Aidan O’Sullivan added: “Haaland’s two-goal masterpiece in East London yesterday saw his price on top goal scorer chipped in from 4.0 (3/1) to 2.38 (11/8) at the time of writing, while City’s outright price has shortened to 1.58 (4/7) from a high of 1.8 (4/5) before the weekend.”

There was some solace for the backers as Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea all got off to winnings starts.

Arsenal (4/5) eased past Crystal Palace 2-0 on Friday night, before Spurs (9/25) demolished a lacklustre Southampton 4-1 while Chelsea (11/20) walked away with all three points at Goodison Park after a 1-0 win over Everton.

On the continent, Lionel Messi and Neymar rolled back the years as PSG (1/5) thumped Clermont Foot 5-0 with the former Barcelona pair scoring three of the goals and assisting all five, including a superb bicycle kick from Messi.

Freeth said: “Wins for Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City weren’t great, but not catastrophic being low scoring victories, in fact one of the worst results of the weekend was in France with Neymar and Messi being involved in all five goals between them.”

Elsewhere, in horseracing, Great Britain and Ireland took home the Shergar Cup at Ascot as they won five of the eight races to secure a comfortable victory over defending champions the Ladies, Europe and the Rest of the World well behind.

Winning captain Jamie Spencer took two wins, while Silver Saddle winner Neil Callan also won two races and ended the competition with 50 points, ahead of Spencer and teammate Kieran Shoemark on 37 and 33, respectively.

Virgin Bet’s Janis Strauts said: “The limited rainfall across the UK has kept field sizes on the low side for a while now, however Ascot saw seven 10-runner races, all of which were competitive. Five out of the eight favourites there won, although four of them were either joint or co-favourites with prices no shorter than 5/2.”

Over in Ireland, Little Big Bear dominated the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes to reaffirm the Aidan O’Brien-trained horse’s status as a growing force.

“Elsewhere at the Curragh,” Strauts added, “a scintillating performance from Aidan O’Brien’s Little Big Bear in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes shot him to the top of next year’s 2000 Guineas market. We had 58 races on Saturday with a 43% return on winning favourites and 57% return on winners 3/1 or shorter.”

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