Newspaper article International New York Times

Home-Field Advantage Takes a Beating in Premier League

Newspaper article International New York Times

Home-Field Advantage Takes a Beating in Premier League

Article excerpt

Liverpool was beaten in Anfield by West Ham United and Chelsea lost to Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge; only Manchester City seems safe at home.

The old line about a man's home being his castle took a couple of hefty knocks this weekend when Liverpool was beaten in Anfield by West Ham United and Chelsea lost to Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge.

It was the first time in 52 years that the Hammers triumphed at Liverpool, and the first time in 33 years that Palace won on Chelsea's turf.

These results reaffirm the belief that the Premier League is the most competitive and least predictable league in the world. Outside of Manchester City, which keeps winning at Etihad Stadium, there are no home comforts in England any longer.

City is spending again like there is no tomorrow. It has four victories in its first four games, and those came even before its latest acquisition, Kevin De Bruyne, the Belgian who was purchased for a reported $90 million from the German club Wolfsburg.

That is $90 million just for the transfer fee. De Bruyne's salary will apparently equal that amount over the five years of his contract. Multiply that many times over -- for what City pays for Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure, captain Vincent Kompany, plus many more -- and you get some idea of what this club is prepared to spend.

Its owners, the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, are not simply intent on recapturing the English league title that Chelsea won last season. They are funding teams in the United States (New York City F.C.), Australia (Melbourne City F.C.) and Japan (Yokohama F. Marinos) and are fast becoming the first truly global soccer empire run by a single family.

After Raheem Sterling had scored City's first goal on Saturday with a sweet movement and volley, Coach Manuel Pellegrini said, with barely disguised irony: "He's demonstrating he was not an expensive player."

Pellegrini kept a straight face when he said that. He was chiding critics who last month said that when City paid Liverpool $75 million for Sterling, it was for potential alone. And that amount has now been eclipsed by De Bruyne's price tag.

Sterling is just 20. As a child, he emigrated from Jamaica to London with his mother, and as a youth he showed such quick feet and intuitive play on the wing that Liverpool paid $1 million to bring him into its academy.

The goal Saturday was as much Pellegrini's as Sterling's. The coach had watched his team be stymied in the first half and moved Silva from the center to the wing, with Sterling going in the opposite direction. The reward came almost instantly in the form of a goal that broke Watford's organized resistance.

Home rule at City's Etihad stadium.

But elsewhere, England was undergoing a challenge to the belief that home teams roared on by their supporters automatically enjoy a built-in advantage. …

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