Results: Arsenal 3-2 Newcastle United, Birmingham City 2-0 Portsmouth, Bolton Wanderers 1-1 Wolverhampton Wanderers, Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa, Leicester City 1-4 Manchester United, Southampton 0-1 Middlesbrough, Charlton Athletic 3-2 Liverpool FC, Blackburn Rovers 0-2 Fulham, Everton 4-0 Leeds United, Manchester City 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
The week leading up to the action on 26th-28th September 2003 had been dominated by the spectacular fallout from ‘The Battle of Old Trafford.’ Following the unsavoury scenes after the 0-0 draw between Manchester United and Arsenal, eight players were charged by the Football Association and Arsenal were seen by many experts and neutrals as the public enemies for picking on Ruud van Nistelrooy.
It was time for the Gunners’ to get people drooling over their football again rather than the fighting bulldog spirit they’d shown in Manchester. They kicked off the weekend with an entertaining Friday night encounter at home to Newcastle United. The teams shared five goals and only a clumsy Jermaine Jenas handball allowed a Thierry Henry penalty to end up separating the sides. Henry scored twice in the 3-2 victory. It was game seven of Arsenal’s historic ‘The Invincibles’ season. Newcastle were yet to win in the campaign.
They were one of two sides still awaiting that winning feeling by the time September ended. The other were the Premier League rookies Wolverhampton Wanderers. However, they had a contender for the Goal of the Weekend. Alex Rae’s stunning volley gave them the lead away to Bolton Wanderers. Unfortunately for all Wolves fans, their first top-flight victory in 20 years would have to wait. Kevin Davies scored a late equaliser with five minutes left to ensure the match ended 1-1.
Van Nistelrooy showed no after-effects from being the centre of attention during the Old Trafford fracas a week earlier. The Dutchman did his talking by scoring goals and he chalked up another hat-trick in Manchester United’s routine 4-1 victory away to Leicester City. Sir Alex Ferguson’s defending champions had lost only once all campaign but were sitting in third spot only in the table. That was because Chelsea’s unbeaten start continued. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored the only goal of a narrow 1-0 success at home to Aston Villa. However, the Blues’ were fortunate to win this match. Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel spurned a couple of fantastic opportunities to deny the visitors’ the chance of a point.
The other side that were currently unbeaten in the Premier League were Birmingham City. Steve Bruce’s side were tough to breakdown and had enough on the counter-attack to hurt teams. Portsmouth were the latest victims – losing 2-0 in the Midlands. Birmingham boasted the best defensive record, conceding just twice and keeping five clean sheets in their opening six matches.
Van Nistelrooy might have been a regular when it came to scoring hat-tricks but there were two other players who scored trebles that weekend and they certainly rank among the Premier League’s most surprising hat-trick heroes. Defender Steve Watson made the most of Leeds United’s fragile defence to score a treble in Everton’s 4-0 victory over the penniless Yorkshire side. Leeds were abject throughout and conceded 10 goals in three September matches, without scoring. It was a painful return to Goodison Park for Peter Reid.
On the same Sunday afternoon, Kevin Lisbie enjoyed the day of his life as Charlton Athletic welcomed Liverpool FC to The Valley. Lisbie scored an incredible hat-trick including a wonderful solo effort as Charlton won 3-2. It was their second successive home victory over Liverpool, who were now sitting in the unfamiliar positon of eighth spot. The one crumb of comfort for Liverpool fans was the form of Michael Owen. After a slow start to the season, Owen had now scored six goals in four matches. He struck a penalty in this defeat.
In the weekend’s other three matches, Middlesbrough claimed a surprising 1-0 victory away at Southampton. This was the Saints’ first defeat of the season. Fulham enjoyed their away trip to Ewood Park, beating Blackburn Rovers 2-0 whilst Super Sunday viewers were treated to a goalless game between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. Unfortunately for Sky viewers, this was a period where Sunday 4pm matches introduced a lack of goalmouth activity. In five 4pm kick-offs between September 21st and October 26th, just two goals were scored!
There was still only six points between the top eight at the end of September but it was already clear that Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United had the three strongest squads and would be the three sides likely to scrap it out for the 2003-2004 Premier League title.
What else happened in September 2003?
- Estonia & Latvia join the European Union following a referendum but the people of Sweden reject the chance to take the Euro currency following their own vote.
- “Dirty Den” returns to EastEnders – 14 years after appearing to have been killed off.
- The Bull Ring shopping centre in Birmingham is officially opened.
- Starring Matt Lucas and David Walliams, Little Britain makes its first appearance on UK TV screens.
- Andy Roddick beats Juan Carlos Ferrero in straight sets to win the men’s singles at the US Open; his sole Grand Slam victory.
- Europe’s first mission to the moon is launched through SMART-1, a European Space Agency satellite.
- Labour loses the Brent East seat in a by-election to the Liberal Democrats after 29 years in control.