Football Features

Where are they now? The first competitive goalscorers at 10 of football’s newest stadiums

By Harry Edwards

Published: 14:55, 25 March 2019

Stadiums are often remembered by the success teams enjoy within them, whether it be their home ground or a neutral venue.

For Manchester United fans, the Nou Camp will be forever in their memories, while Chelsea view Wembley as their second home and Arsenal fondly remember their success during the Highbury days.

This weekend, Tottenham held their first test game at the ‘New White Hart Lane’ ahead of its proposed competitive opening when Spurs face Crystal Palace on April 3 – a day many Spurs fans will now be looking forward to.

But one thing some people may forget is the opening games of new stadiums and the scorers in them.

So, who were the first scorers in competitive games at some of the Premier League’s newest stadiums, as well other major grounds around Europe, and what has happened to them since?

1. New Wembley: James Constable

Opened: 2007

First match: Kidderminster Harriers 2-3 Stevenage Borough

The new Wembley Stadium officially opened with a 3-3 friendly game between England U21s and Italy U21s, but did not host a competitive game until the 2007 FA Trophy Final.

There, James Constable opened the scoring for Kidderminster Harriers after 31 minutes, becoming the first player to score in a competitive game where the twin towers previously stood.

Constable would leave Kiddy in January 2008 for Shrewsbury Town, then of League Two, but spent just six months at the club before returning to non-league with Oxford United on loan.

Making his move to Oxford permanent a year later, Constable spent five years with the club before joining Eastleigh in 2014 where he remains on the books, despite currently being on loan at Poole Town.

2. Emirates Stadium: Olof Mellberg

Opened: 2006

First match: Arsenal 1-1 Aston Villa

Arsenal’s shiny new Emirates Stadium was opened in 2006, ready to herald the club into a new era, and officially opened with Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial against Ajax.

But the Gunners didn’t get off to the best start in their first competitive game, going behind to an Olof Mellberg goal against Aston Villa – though they would eventually equalise.

Best known for his time at Villa, Mellberg left England two years later to join Juventus – where he spent a season.

Mellberg then had spells at Olympiacos, Villarreal and FC Copenhagen before retiring in 2014. He has since had a stint as manager of Swedish club IF Brommapojkarna, helping them return to the Allsvenskan.

3. Etihad Stadium: Trevor Sinclair

Opened: 2003

First match: Manchester City 5-0 The New Saints

The City of Manchester Stadium was initially built to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games, but was converted to a football stadium and Manchester City moved in in 2003.

After a friendly between Man City and Barcelona opened the football ground, a UEFA Cup game became the first competitive match at the stadium.

Then, Trevor Sinclair scored first in a 5-0 win for Man City over Welsh side The New Saints. Sinclair was in his first season at City and would stay three years before joining Cardiff City in 2007.

He left the Bluebirds a year later aged 35 and retired from professional football, turning his hand to punditry while also working in coaching.

4. Wanda Metropolitano: Antoine Griezmann

Opened: 2017

First match: Atletico Madrid 1-0 Malaga

After years of anticipation, the Wanda Metropolitano finally opened in 2017 and Atletico Madrid got off to the best possible start.

A La Liga match against Malaga was the opener, attended by the King of Spain, with Antoine Griezmann scoring the only goal of the match.

Despite rumours forever linking Griezmann with a move away from the club, the Frenchman has remained at the Metropolitano so far – though more links are set to come after Atletico’s recent Champions League exit.

5. Juventus Stadium: Stephan Lichtsteiner

Opened: 2011

First match: Juventus 4-1 Parma

Given the old ties between the two clubs, Juventus opened their new stadium with a friendly against Notts County on September 8, 2011 which ended 1-1.

But the first competitive game came three days later as Juventus hosted Parma in Serie A. The home side won 4-1 with full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner opening the scoring after 16 minutes.

Then in his first season at the club, Lichtsteiner would stay with Juventus until the summer of 2018 after winning eight Serie A titles, eventually joining Premier League side Arsenal on a free transfer.

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6. King Power Stadium: Brian Deane

Opened: 2002

First match: Leicester City 2-0 Watford

For those of a certain age, Leicester’s home ground will forever be remembered as the Walkers Stadium – named due to their then-affiliation with the crisps company.

The Walkers Stadium opened in July 2002 and had its first game a month later, a friendly against Athletic Bilbao.

The first competitive game took place shortly after with Brian Deane scoring twice in a 2-0 win over Watford in the First Division. Then 34, Deane would stay at Leicester another season before joining West Ham United.

Further spells at Leeds United, Sunderland, Perth Glory and Sheffield United followed before Deane retired aged 38. Deane has since managed Norwegian side Sarpsborg 08 between 2012 and 2014.

7. Amex Stadium: Billy Sharp

Opened: 2011

First match: Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 Doncaster Rovers

Brighton’s new home, having gone so long without one, officially opened with a friendly against Tottenham Hotspur at the end of July 2011.

The first competitive game took place with the start of the new Championship season, with Brighton beating Doncaster Rovers 2-1.

But things didn’t get off to the best start for the Seagulls, with Billy Sharp giving the away side the lead.

One of the Football League’s best strikers, Sharp went on to represent Southampton, Nottingham Forest, Reading, Leeds United before joining current club Sheffield United.

Signing in 2015, Sharp has since scored 101 goals in 235 games for the Blades.

8. Allianz Arena: Roy Makaay

Opened: 2005

First match: Bayern Munich 1-2 Stuttgart

Opening in May 2005, the Allianz Arena hosted various friendly games before its first competitive game in July.

Then, Bayern Munich took on Stuttgart in the now-defunct German League Cup with Roy Makaay opening the scoring in a 2-1 defeat.

The Dutch striker was midway through his time with Bayern, eventually leaving in 2007 to return to the Netherlands with Feyenoord. Makaay retired at the end of the 2009/10 season.

9. London Stadium: Cheikhou Kouyate

Opened: 2016

First match: West Ham United 3-0 NK Domzale

The opening game of West Ham’s new home at the London Stadium was supposed to be their friendly against Juventus. However, the Hammers actually played competitive football at their new stadium before its official opening, thanks to the Europa League.

Then, Cheikhou Kouyate gave them the lead after just eight minutes against Slovenian side NK Domzale as the Hammers overcame a 2-1 first-leg deficit to reach the play-offs for the Europa League.

Spending another year with West Ham, Kouyate joined London rivals Crystal Palace in August 2018, where he remains.

10. Cardiff City Stadium: Michael Chopra

Opened: 2009

First match: Cardiff City 4-0 Scunthorpe United

Opening with a pre-season friendly against Celtic, the Cardiff City Stadium had its first taste of competitive football with the start of the 2009/10 Championship season.

Cardiff hosted Scunthorpe United and won 4-0, with Michael Chopra opening the scoring shortly after signing permanently.

Chopra would spend two seasons with Cardiff before joining Ipswich Town in 2011. The striker then signed for Indian side Kerala Blasters via Blackpool, before a year with Alloa Athletic preceded another spell in Kerala. Chopra, now 35, has not officially retired but has been without a club since 2016.

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