Liverpool have suffered their worst opening day defeat since 1937, losing 3-0 to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. Arsenal, in their first game since Robin Van Persie’s departure, could only manage a goalless draw at home to Sunderland.
Elsewhere, the Premier League began in explosive style, as Swansea recorded a 5-0 win over QPR, Fulham also beat Norwich by a five goal margin, West Ham celebrated their return to England’s top division with a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa, while Reading and Stoke shared the points in a 1-1 draw.
Liverpool and West Bromwich were both playing their first games under new management, with Brendan Rodgers having moved to Anfield from Swansea and Steve Clarke taking his first managerial post at Albion after being sacked from his assistant manager’s role with Liverpool at the end of last season.
“I thought the scoreline was harsh, I’ve got to be honest,” Rodgers told the Liverpool website.
“After the first couple of minutes of the game, we got good control and rhythm in our game. Up until they scored the first goal, it looked as though we were the team who were going to get it.
Liverpool finished the game with ten men, after defender Daniel Agger was sent off for a foul on West Bromwich striker Shane Long, giving away a penalty in the process.
“Obviously then with 10 men and chasing the game, it becomes difficult,” the former Swansea manager explained.
“We conceded a penalty and then the sending off kills you, really. Especially for a new team that is coming together in terms of the structure and ideas.”
Liverpool have not had such a disastrous start since Chelsea beat them 6-1 on the opening day of the 1937 season.
Boos rang around the Emirates as the final whistle blew on the first game of Arsenal’s post-Van Persie era. Manager Arsene Wenger gave debuts to new signings Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla, and introduced Olivier Giroud in the second half for the Frenchman’s first competitive showing in an Arsenal shirt.
Despite controlling the majority of the play, Arsenal couldn’t find the net to get their season off to a winning start.
“We played with a good spirit. We were serious, we put the effort in. Our basic fitness is alright but we lack sharpness and fluency at the moment to be dangerous in the final third.” Wenger told the Arsenal website.
“The few chances we had, we couldn’t convert them. Sunderland always play the same way against us, in the final third and defensively, and if you’re not sharp enough to make the difference early in the game it becomes difficult.”
Sunderland put in a dogged display to take their first point of the season, and had a couple of opportunities to win the match from set pieces, despite their defensive set up.
“It was a terrific performance by the team, considering that after about 60 odd minutes we were out on our feet,” manager Martin O’Neill told the club’s website.
“It was a very warm day, we were away from home and we had to soak up pressure. I thought we were really excellent; it was a brilliant effort.
“We’ve got a point, we’re off the mark and we’ve got a home game to look forward to.”
In South-West London, Queens Park Rangers were hoping to fulfill some of their pre-season promise. After a number of high profile signings, such as Ji-Sung Park from Manchester United and Jose Bosingwa from Chelsea, hopes were high that the club could avoid the relegation struggle they faced last year.
Swansea, widely tipped as relegation candidates this season, put in an incredible performance to sour the mood at Rangers’ home ground, Loftus Road.
“It’s always nice to win your first game of the season and to win away from home is always important because it can give you so much confidence going forward,” explained Swansea manager Michael Laudrup to the club website.
“It gives us something to build on. But the players are the most important, and I’m delighted for them.”
Two goals for new signing Michu got the Welsh side’s season under way, and QPR never looked capable of a recovery.
“It was a wake up call. Maybe everybody was getting a little but excited about what’s ahead of us but we, as a group, understand there’s a lot of hard work needed,” Rangers manager Mark Hughes told the club’s website.
“Today wasn’t the level I expect us to perform at. You can make all the excuses in the world that it was a hot day and the first game of the season, but that doesn’t wash with me. We need to perform better.
“In the end we were ragged, made bad decisions, the accuracy of our passing was poor all day and as a consequence we got picked off very easily.
“All credit to Swansea, they played exceptionally well and they took their chances when they came.”
The two promoted sides in action today, Reading and West Ham, both enjoyed a promising start to the season. West Ham ran out 1-0 winners over Aston Villa with a controversial goal from captain Kevin Nolan.
Aston Villa believed play had stopped due to an offside flag, allowing Nolan to easily score.
“Some of the play, I was really happy with and some, like anything, you’re not. But I can’t fault the lads for effort. Their effort was excellent,” explained Villa manager Paul Lambert to the club website.
“We tried, but there wasn’t much in the game. I thought we looked bright but we’ve got to turn our possession into chances. If we can just get a finishing touch on that then we’ll be okay.”
Reading looked like they were going to mark their return to the Premier League with a 1-0 home defeat to Stoke City. However, a last minute penalty from Adam Le Fondre rescued a point for last season’s Championship winners.
“I think it would have been unjust if we’d lost but injustices are no good to anyone, you have to get results and we’ve done that. We wanted to win it after we got to 1-1,” Reading Manager Brian McDermott told Reading’s website after the game.
Stoke had been fortunate to take the lead when a speculative shot from new signing Michael Kightly slipped through Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici’s hands and into the net.
“I am so pleased he scored today. We had wide players who didn’t really score last season but Kights has come in and put pressure on them from the word go which is what we want,” Stoke manager Tony Pulis told his club’s website.
“We need forward to score goals and for us our wide players are forwards. The extra competition can only help us this season.”
Fulham joined Swansea at the top of the table with a dominating 5-0 win over Norwich. The London side’s preparations have been overshadowed by the transfer rumors swirling around star player Clint Dempsey, but it was the club’s new signing that stole the headlines on the opening day of the season.
Mladen Petric scored two goals on his full debut, with Damien Duff, Steve Sidwell and Alex Kacaniklic picking up a goal each.
“I am very happy. Not only because of my performance, but because we had an amazing start today which will be very important for us throughout the rest of the season,” Petric told the Fulham website.
“All of us played a very good game; we defended very well — I think they had just one or two chances to score — and we scored five goals which means that we played very well today.”
Norwich City were playing their first game under new manager Chris Hughton, but struggled to replicate some of their impressive form from last season.
“You have to remember that it’s the first game of the season, we’ve all been there before,” said Hughton.
“Whether it’s at the start of the season the middle or at the end defeats are defeats and you have to be able to bounce back from them and learn from them.”
In the late kick off, Newcastle needed a late penalty to overcome a spirited display from Andre Villas-Boas’ Tottenham side. The Portuguese manager was taking charge of the London team for the first time in a competitive match, and looked to have secured a valuable point when Jermain Defoe equalized Demba Ba’s early second half strike.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew could face Football Association charges after he was sent to the stands for shoving the assistant referee.