English football’s superpowers had mixed fortunes on the opening weekend of the Premier League season as Arsenal enjoyed six of the best, while Manchester United and Chelsea ground out hard-fought victories and Liverpool spluttered.
United claimed a 1-0 win over newly-promoted Birmingham at Old Trafford on Sunday, then Tottenham stunned Liverpool with a 2-1 triumph at White Hart Lane.
Just 24 hours earlier new Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti savoured a 2-1 victory over Hull in his first match and Arsene Wenger was left purring by Arsenal’s stunning 6-1 success at Everton.
United made a winning start to their bid for a record fourth successive title thanks to Wayne Rooney’s goal and Sir Alex Ferguson insists it was only the start of great things to come now the England forward.
”It gets him on the road to what we hope will be a very significant total for us this season,” Ferguson said.
”If you have two or three strikers who can get you 20 it stands you in good stead. Wayne Rooney is well capable of that.
”I know some of our supporters are still worried that I have not bought a megastar to replace Cristiano Ronaldo.
”But I am more than happy with our squad and although we have lost a major player, I believe we are on the threshold of a very exciting era for Manchester United.”
Liverpool, regarded by many as United’s biggest title rivals, fared less well as Rafael Benitez’s team were beaten by Sebastien Bassong’s second half header.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto had put Tottenham ahead before Steven Gerrard equalised from the penalty spot.
But Benitez fumed over referee Phil Dowd’s decision not to award two late penalties to his side.
”Everybody could see there was a penalty against Andrey Voronin. It was so clear, it is unbelievable,” he said. ”With this referee, I knew this [another penalty] was impossible.”
At Goodison Park, Wenger’s young Arsenal team issued a defiant response to the critics who have dismissed them as title also-rans by dismantling an Everton side who finished fifth last season.
A Cesc Fabregas double and goals from Denilson, William Gallas, debutant defender Thomas Vermaelen and Eduardo were just reward for a scintiliating display from the Gunners.
”Before the game we were seemingly being ruled out by everybody, we were told we do not have the squad. Well, we wanted to show that we do have the squad,” Wenger said.
Chelsea needed a stoppage time winner from Ivory Coast forward Didier Drogba to end Hull’s stubborn resistance at Stamford Bridge.
Stephen Hunt, making his Hull debut, had given the Tigers a shock lead before Drogba equalised with a superb free-kick and then chipped in the winner.
Blues captain John Terry said: ”We have re-signed Didier, which is massive. He’s just brilliant and a winner and that has been important to Chelsea.
”The hunger among the boys this year to win the Premier League is as strong as ever.
”We want that and the Champions League and, with our squad being held together, there are plenty of reasons for optimism.”
Mega-rich Manchester City got a first repayment on Mark Hughes’s 93 million pounds close-season spending spree.
Hughes, backed by City’s Abu Dhabi-based owners, has completely revamped his team and was relieved to see Emmanuel Adebayor, a 25 million pounds signing from Arsenal, open the scoring at Blackburn before Stephen Ireland’s goal clinched a 2-0 win.
”A lot of people were looking at us to see how it was going to go. It was a positive afternoon from that point of view,” Hughes said.
Elsewhere, Sunderland won 1-0 at Bolton, Stoke defeated Burnley 2-0, Fulham won 1-0 at Fulham, Wigan shocked Aston Villa 2-0 and West Ham won 2-0 at Wolverhampton. — AFP