"Michael who?" is a temptingly cheeky question to ask after Djibril Cissé, the £14 million Frenchman, stepped into the dear departed's striking role for Liverpool to score the first goal of the Premiership season. But Jermain Defoe, not quite a cheeky Cockney, spoiled the day for all the new men at Anfield by earning Tottenham a 1-1 draw in north London.
Rafael Benitez, the Spaniard who has rebuilt the backroom team at Anfield, too, was impressed with Cissé, who was lined up by his predecessor, Gérard Houllier. Benitez said: "We hope that he scores a lot of goals. I think he has the potential to. He needs to work hard, like he did today, and I am sure he will score a lot of goals."
He may yet strengthen his striking unit, though. "It depends on the players we could sign," he said. "In my mind is to find players who could play forward sometimes. So we will see." With Owen and Emile Heskey gone, Benitez played Milan Baros, the Czech who was the leading scorer at the European Championship during the summer, alongside Cissé.
Defoe, who started alongside his fellow former West Ham striker, Freddie Kanouté, in Robbie Keane's absence, was cock-a-hoop after his scoring start. "We came back into it in the second half and kept it going," he said. "It's always nice to get a goal and it's even better when the England manager [Sven Goran Eriksson] is watching you, but it's the team that counts."
So it was new manager against new manager at White Hart Lane and it is difficult to assess which is under more pressure. Benitez is aiming to bring Liverpool their first domestic title since 1990; his opposite number, Jacques Santini, has to turn Tottenham into serious players in the Premiership. The Frenchman sounds like a magician but, having built his reputation on the French League stage, his most recent trick was to turn France, one-time world beaters, into European also-rans.
Iain Dowie, Crystal Palace's manager, does not see why any of the promoted trio should be Premiership also-rans. "It is easy to knock people's dreams. Why can't we survive? Why can't Norwich stay up? Why can't we all survive?" he said.
The collision between two of the three, Norwich and Palace, ended in a 1-1 draw. Darren Huckerby came out like a scalded cat, racing at the Palace defence in the early stages and putting Norwich ahead after 15 minutes with a cool finish. However, Palace deserved their equaliser from Andy Johnson with 17 minutes left. West Bromwich Albion, back for their second shot at the Premiership, drew 1-1 at Blackburn. Neil Clement put them ahead with a free-kick, but Craig Short rescued Rovers with a glancing header.
Jay-Jay Okocha attracted more than a few admiring glances for his performances in a Bolton shirt last season and he made a swift start with two goals to spearhead his side's 4-1 home win over Charlton.Reuse content