Man City's 'H' quest - Champs look to stay hungry, humble in title defence
LIVERPOOL, England (AP):
Two days into the English Premier League season and there is a familiar sight at the top of the standings.
Manchester City began the defence of their title with a 2-0 away victory over Newcastle yesterday, with star forwards David Silva and Sergio Aguero scoring at St James' Park.
Liverpool - the runners-up last season - were less convincing against Southampton at Anfield but still took the three points, with Daniel Sturridge's 79th-minute goal clinching a 2-1 win in the team's first match of the post-Luis Suarez era.
Raheem Sterling put Liverpool ahead in the 23rd, but Brendan Rodgers' side struggled for fluency and Nathaniel Clyne deservedly equalised for Southampton in the 56th.
With Burnley-Chelsea wrapping up the first round of fixtures today, City are the only team to have won by more than a one-goal margin.
"We have talked to the squad about the two 'H's - hungry and humble," City manager Manuel Pellegrini said. "We need both if we want to continue winning titles and improve on what we did last season."
Bidding for a third English league title in four years, City began the season in ominous fashion with a clean sheet and a professional performance, sprinkled with opportunistic goals.
Spain playmaker Silva raced on to an impudent back-heel from Edin Dzeko to open the scoring with a low finish in the 38th minute.
Newcastle applied pressure in the final 15 minutes, only for Aguero to add a second on a counter-attack in stoppage time, the Argentina striker slotting into the far corner after his first shot was parried out to him by goalkeeper Tim Krul.
Aguero came on as a late substitute along with Brazil midfielder Fernandinho, showing the strength in depth in the champions' squad after a low-key summer when Pellegrini has focused on bolstering his defence and midfield.
Chelsea are the favourites with British bookmakers after improving their attack by signing Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, but City still could be the team to beat.
"We were brave and we went for it," Newcastle manager Alan Pardew said. "In the end, the quality won."
With Suarez departed to Barcelona for $130 million, a new 'SAS' partnership could be emerging at Anfield.
Sterling and Sturridge rescued Liverpool in a flat display that saw a new-look Southampton seize the initiative at the start of the second half.
Clyne's goal - a fierce strike into the top corner after a neat flick from Dusan Tadic - came at a time when Liverpool lost their way and Southampton wasted some great openings before Sturridge pounced for the winner.
Sterling, who slipped home a low finish after Jordan Henderson's curling pass to give Liverpool the lead, turned provider when he headed the ball into the six-yard box where Sturridge reacted quickest to turn in a shot.
Life much tougher
The victory was only just preserved as Morgan Schneiderlin struck the bar for Southampton in the 88th minute and substitute Shane Long headed the rebound just wide.
Without Suarez, the Premier League's top scorer last season, Liverpool are set to find life much tougher.
"Our ambitions here at Liverpool have to be bigger than one player," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. "He sent us a lovely text this morning, wishing us all the best, which was a great gesture.
"He is a friend now of Liverpool, but we are bigger than any player."
Much will be expected of Sturridge this season after the summer departure of his strike partner, and the England international showed his poacher's instinct to make it 36 goals in his first 50 league games for Liverpool.
"Of course there is pressure on myself to get the goals now with Luis Suarez out of the team," Sturridge said. "It's important for myself and the lads to step up."
Southampton lost a slew of their best players this summer - three of them to Liverpool in Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert - but took positives from their performance.
"If we play like that, I don't think we will struggle," Southampton manager Ronald Koeman said.
ARSENAL 2 CRYSTAL PALACE 1
GOALS:- ARSENAL: KOSCIELNY 45th; RAMSEY 90th. PALACE: HANGELAND 35th.
Managerless Crystal Palace came close to an opening-day shock at the Emirates Stadium. Tony Pulis left Palace on the eve of the season's start and caretaker Keith Milner saw Brede Hangeland net for Palace on his debut. Laurent Koscielny replied for the Gunners. Three minutes from the end Palace had Jason Puncheon sent off for a second yellow card and in added time, Aaron Ramsey stole a winner.
LEICESTER CITY 2 EVERTON 2
GOALS:- LEICESTER CITY: ULLOA 22nd; WOODS 86th. EVERTON:-McGEADY 20th; NAISMITH 45th.
Leicester City marked their return to the Barclays Premier League after a 10-year absence with a dramatic point. Substitute Chris Wood struck late to deny Everton, who looked set for three points. Aiden McGeady gave the visitors the lead before City debutant Leonardo Ulloa responded quickly. Just before half-time Steven Naismith put Everton back in front, but Woods beat Tim Howard with four minutes remaining.
MANCHESTER UNITED 1 SWANSEA CITY 2
GOALS:- UNITED: ROONEY 53rd. SWANSEA: KI 28th; SIGURDSSON 72nd.
The new era at Old Trafford ended in familiar fashion when Louis van Gaal's first Barclays Premier League game ended in defeat. Last season under David Moyes, United lost a Premier League record seven Old Trafford games and a Gylfi Sigurdsson winner sealed it for the Swans. The Welshmen took the lead through Ki Sung-yueng, but Wayne Rooney, newly-crowned United skipper, equalised. However, Sigurdsson struck to ruin Van Gaal's party.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0 HULL CITY 1
GOAL:- HULL: CHESTER 52nd.
Queens Park Rangers' return to the Barclays Premier League ended in defeat when James Chester's goal earned last season's FA Cup finalists three valuable points. Rangers had a chance to claim a point after Chester was adjudged to have handled a cross from substitute Junior Hoilett. But Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor saved Charlie Austin's penalty.
STOKE CITY 0 ASTON VILLA 1
GOAL:- VILLA: WEIMANN 50th.
Aston Villa have had an unsettled summer with the club up for sale, but Andreas Weimann scored the only goal of the game as the visitors started their season with a victory over Stoke at the Britannia Stadium. The Austria striker scored early in the second half with an angled shot, which was too powerful for Potters goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
WEST BROMWICH ALION 2 SUNDERLAND 2
GOALS:- WBA: BERAHINO 42nd PEN, 74th. SUNDERLAND: CATTERMOLE 5th; LARSSON 85th.
Saido Berahino scored twice for West Bromwich Albion, but a late equaliser from Sebastien Larsson earned Sunderland a point. Lee Cattermole gave Sundeland the lead after just five minutes, but a Berahino penalty drew Albion level. Then Berahino put the Baggies ahead with a volley, before Larsson levelled with five minutes remaining.
WEST HAM UNITED 0 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1
GOAL:- TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR: DIER 90th.
New Tottenham manager Muricio Pochettino celebrated an opening-day win when Spurs debutant Eric Dier stole a last-minute winner for the visitors. Both sides finished the game with 10 men, with Tottenham's Kyle Naughton sent off for handling inside the area. Mark Noble fired wide from the penalty spot, before the Hammers had James Collins sent off for a second booking. But Dier struck late on to break Hammers' hearts.