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Lukaku strikes as Chelsea sink Arsenal, Kane back in Spurs win

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LONDON: Romelu Luk­aku and Harry Kane, two of the world’s best strikers, were back in action in the Premier League on Sunday after some time away.

Lukaku made the better impression.

Making the first appearance of his second spell at Chelsea, the Belgium international marked his return to England’s top division after a two-year absence by scoring one goal and playing a part in the other in a 2-0 win at Arsenal.

Kane, the Tottenham Hotspur striker heavily linked with a move to Manchester City, hadn’t been seen in the Premier League since the final day of last season, having returned late for pre-season training amid growing intrigue over his future.

The England captain entered as a 71st-minute substitute against Wolverhampton Wanderers to applause from Spurs fans despite his apparent desire to join City and wasted a one-on-one opportunity before his team sealed a 1-0 win at Molineux.

Both Chelsea and Tottenham have opened the season with two straight victories. Manchester United couldn’t quite join them.

Mason Greenwood’s second-half goal earned United a point from a 1-1 draw at Southampton. Paul Pogba set up the goal with his fifth assist already this season, having set up four in United’s 5-1 win over Leeds on the opening weekend.

Lukaku has rejoined Chelsea from Italian champions Inter Milan for 98 million ($133 million) and the Belgian striker made an immediate repayment on that huge investment in the London derby at the Emirates Stadium.

The 28-year-old spent three years at Chelsea between 2011 and 2014, but rarely featured and never scored before being sold to Everton.

Lukaku, who endured a difficult spell at Manchester United before joining Inter, took just 15 minutes to showcase his power and predatory instincts.

Holding off Pablo Mari, Lukaku kept the Chelsea attack going before shrugging aside the Arsenal defender as he surged into the six-yard box to tap in Reece James’ cross.

James scored Chelsea’s second himself with a superb strike into the far corner after Mason Mount picked out the unmarked defender inside the Arsenal area.

European champions Chelsea have made a flawless start to their title challenge, winning successive games without conceding a goal.

Lacklustre Arsenal were booed off at half-time and Mikel Arteta’s team are pointless and goalless after following their limp loss at Brentford with a second defeat.

Tottenham were already leading through Dele Alli’s 10th minute penalty by the time Kane arrived on the scene.

Alli was fouled by Wolves keeper Jose Sa and the midfielder picked himself up to notch his first league goal since March 2020.

Kane replaced Son Heung-min with 19 minutes left and received a largely positive reception from the travelling Tottenham fans, who sang “Harry Kane, he’s one of our own” as Wolves supporters mockingly chanted: “He’ll be a Manc in the morning”.

Kane had a golden opportunity to mark his return with a goal when Steven Bergwijn picked him out, but his shot was repelled by Jose Sa.

Despite Kane’s miss, it was a winning return to Wolves for Tottenham boss Nuno Espirito Santo, who was back for the first time since leaving in the close-season.

“Harry is still in the process of increasing and improving his level of fitness, but he is one of the best players in the world,” said Nuno. “You can see how he helped the team in terms of possession and the fine lines. We need everybody.”

At St Mary’s, United failed to build on last weekend’s demolition of Leeds as they trailed to Fred’s own goal.

While Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side left the south-coast frustrated, they did equal Arsenal’s English top-flight record of 27 successive away league games without defeat.

Southampton took their controversial lead in the 30th minute.

Bruno Fernandes felt he was fouled when a barge from Jack Stephens left the United midfielder in a heap but referee Craig Pawson waved play on.

Moussa Djenepo and Adam Armstrong worked the ball to Che Adams on the edge of the United area and his shot deflected off Fred’s out-stretched boot as it flashed past David De Gea.

Greenwood equalised in the 55th minute, firing under home keeper Alex McCarthy from 12 yards after Pogba poked the ball into the teenager’s path.

“We should do better defending their goal but, that being said, it’s a foul. He goes straight through Bruno, with his arm and his hip across him,” Solskjaer said.

“We can’t go from one extreme of volleyball or basketball last season to rugby now. I like the more lenient way, it’s more men’s football but still, that’s a foul.”

In Saturday’s late game, Brighton and Hove Albion claimed back-to-back wins at the start of a top-flight season for the first time in their history as they beat Watford 2-0 thanks to first-half goals from Shane Duffy and Neal Maupay.

Duffy marked his return to Brighton’s team by setting up the win over Watford with a thumping header.

It was a first Premier League goal since November 2019 for the Ireland centre-back, who spent last season on loan at Celtic after making just 12 starts in two years under Graham Potter at Brighton.

Maupay latched onto Yves Bissouma’s interception for his second goal in as many games, with Brighton having started with a come-from-behind 2-1 win at Burnley.

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2021

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