TOP GRADE football joyously returned to The Valley for the first time since 1957 when Charlton Athletic began their Premiership home programme with balloons, bunting, song, dance and a 5-0 humbling of a wretched Southampton, which included a Clive Mendonca hat-trick. They head the table, too.
The game, started at a furious tempo by Alan Curbshley's fired-up home side, was only three minutes old when John Robinson pounced to score after a goalmouth scramble.
Southampton, whose week had been consumed by speculation over the future of Matthew Le Tissier, dropped for last Sunday's opening day home defeat by Liverpool and again left on the bench, were over-run and took most of the first half to get into the game.
David Jones, the Saints' manager, introduced Le Tissier at the start of the second half but Charlton spoiled the effect somewhat by scoring straight from the kick-off when Neil Redfearn tucked away Clive Mendonca's pass.
In last weekend's goalless draw at Newcastle, Charlton were reduced to 10-men for over an hour following Richard Rufus's sending-off. Now they faced 10 men when Paul Jones, the Southampton goalkeeper, was sent off for pulling down Mendonca, who was clean through. David Howells took over in goal and, though he got a hand to Mendonca's penalty, Charlton were 3-0 up.
Any thoughts that they'd settle for that were dispelled by Mendonca. Nine minutes from the end, Rufus slipped the ball to the former Grimsby striker who calmly scored away his second of the game. Appetite whetted, he completed his hat-trick in the 90th minute.
Like Charlton, Leicester City had caused an upset on the opening day of the season by forcing a 2-2 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford. Their good form continued yesterday with a 2-0 win over visitors Everton, who in the summer had tried to lure Martin O'Neill, the Leicester manager, to Goodison Park.
Tony Cottee, a scorer at Old Trafford, repeated the trick after 11 minutes and, seven minutes from half time, Muzzy Izzett made it 2-0 when he met Steve Guppy's right wing cross at the far post. Walter Smith, the Everton manager, introduced David Unsworth and Danny Cadamarteri in the second half but to no avail.
Wimbledon went to Derby County's Pride Park as early leaders of the Premiership and gained a point from the Rams second consecutive 0-0 draw.
In Scotland, Ally McCoist was in the starting line-up for Kilmarnock at Rugby Park against Rangers, his club of the previous 15 years, but Killies were struggling once Rod Wallace put the Glasgow side ahead on 25 minutes. Jorg Albertz's 29th minute penalty made it 2-0 and although Paul Wright pulled a goal back Charles Miller's 86th minute goal made it safe for Rangers.
Finally, another pristine football ground, Second Division Reading's pounds 37m Madjeski Stadium, opened for business yesterday and it certainly did the trick for Tommy Burns's side who had begun the season in fairly desperate form.
After 10 minutes, Grant Brebner scored the first goal in the new stadium. Further goals by Jim McIntyre and Robert Fleck gave Reading their first points of the season.
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