Jack Grealish and Son Heung-min, two of the English Premier League’s most high-profile players, have been facing growing criticism for their failure to score this season.
They silenced the doubters on Saturday.
With a strike after 55 seconds, Grealish — the England international with the 100 million pound ($139 million) price tag — set Manchester City on its way to a 3-0 win at Wolverhampton and first place in the standings, at least for 24 hours.
With a hat trick after coming off the bench, Son — the joint-top scorer in the league last season — rounded off Tottenham’s 6-2 victory over last-placed Leicester, whose manager Brendan Rodgers will head into the international break with his job under serious threat after six straight league defeats.
The wins left City and Tottenham tied for points in first and second place, respectively, and their managers thrilled to see their forwards scoring again.
“Rightly so, people have been asking questions — I should be scoring more and getting more assists,” said Grealish, who hadn’t even set up a goal this season.
“I am always going to have people talking about me with the money that was spent on me, but all my career I haven’t scored enough goals. I do want to add that to my game.”
Naturally, Erling Haaland was one of City’s other scorers at Molineux — that’s 14 in nine games in all competitions since joining from Borussia Dortmund — along with Phil Foden, with Wolves playing with only 10 men from the 33rd minute after Nathan Collins’ red card for a chest-high lunge on Grealish.
City has 23 goals in its seven games so far.
Son was rotated — or was he dropped? — by Tottenham manager Antonio Conte for the Leicester game and the South Korea forward looked emotional after each of his goals having gone on as a 59th-minute substitute. Two of them were curling shots into the top corner and his hat trick goal squirmed under beleaguered Leicester goalkeeper Danny Ward, before needing the say-so of a VAR review.
“The way I play, I can do much better than I have been,” Son said. “I have been disappointed, the team has been doing really, really good but I was disappointed with my performances.”
Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Rodrigo Bentancur also scored for Tottenham, while Youri Tielemans — with a twice-taken penalty — and James Maddison scored for Leicester.
Rodgers said the pressure was “very much” on him.
“I understand the game,” he said. “The scoreline didn’t reflect the game but the bottom line is it’s a heavy defeat. They (the owners) have given me brilliant support. Whatever happens to me at Leicester, whether I stay and fight on, I’ll always respect them.”
It’s no wins in six games for Newcastle, whose manager Eddie Howe will understand the pressure that comes with coaching the soccer team with the world’s richest owners. How patient will the club’s Saudi leadership be?
After a disappointing 1-1 draw with Bournemouth at St. James’ Park, Newcastle remained without a win in the league since beating Nottingham Forest at home on the opening weekend. Five of Newcastle’s six results have been draws.
There were some jeers from Newcastle supporters at the fulltime whistle after Bournemouth held out for a point in a disciplined defensive performance, which saw the visitors take the lead against the run of play through Philip Billing in the 62nd.
Newcastle, which hit the post through Kieran Trippier and Joelinton by that point, equalized five minutes later when Alexander Isak converted a penalty awarded for a handball against Jefferson Lerma.
Bournemouth continued its upturn in results since firing Scott Parker after a 9-0 loss at Liverpool at the end of August. In three games since under caretaker manager Gary O’Neil, the south-coast team has two draws and a win at Nottingham Forest.
TRIBUTES TO QUEEN
There were more tributes to Queen Elizabeth II before and during Saturday’s games, including a pre-match minute’s silence and a period of applause after the 70th minute — marking the 70 years she was on the throne.
All players wore black armbands as a mark of respect for the queen, who died last week. Her funeral is in London on Monday.