Premier League Wrap: Wins for Chelsea, Spurs, United; Arsenal Beaten
The 2013-14 Premier League season is finally underway, and true to form, there were plenty of excellent matches and surprises on the first day of action.
Liverpool started the new season off with an entertaining win over Stoke City, while Arsenal led against Aston Villa before ending the game a man down and on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline. There were also wins for West Ham United and Fulham, while defending champions Manchester United defeated Swansea City.
Here's the first of our weekly roundups from the Premier League.
Liverpool 1-0 Stoke City
Liverpool and Stoke served up an entertaining clash to get the Premier League started in the day's early clash that was full of chances and incidents despite just the one-goal scoreline.
Both goalkeepers were in fine form, making a string of saves to keep the game in the balance. Asmir Begovic was certainly the busier as he repelled the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard with regularity, but Jon Walters kept Simon Mignolet active too.
Sturridge scored the only goal of the game on 37 minutes with a low, drilled effort. Stoke's best chance for a point came in the final minute of the game when they were awarded a penalty for a handball, but Mignolet kept out Walters' spot-kick as well as Kenwyne Jones' rebound shot.
On target: 11-6
Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa
Arsenal took just six minutes to take the lead at the Emirates Stadium, thanks to Olivier Giroud, but that was as good as it got for the Gunners as Villa made it a miserable season opener for them.
Christian Benteke saw his penalty saved by Wojciech Szczesny midway through the first half but put in the rebound, while a second spot-kick was more routinely dispatched on the hour mark. Laurent Koscielny was booked for the foul which led to that latter penalty, and six minutes later he received another yellow and, thus, the first red card of the Premier League season.
Arsenal committed men forward late in the game as they sought to steal a point back, forcing Brad Guzan into a top-class save of a shot by Santi Cazorla, before a fast counterattack saw Antonio Luna race clear and calmly finish the third goal.
On target: 4-6
Swansea City 1-4 Manchester United
Manchester United got off to a winning start with David Moyes in charge as the striker pairing of Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck scored a brace apiece.
The Dutchman got things rolling just after the half-hour mark to put United ahead, with Welbeck doubling their lead within two minutes.
Swansea showed plenty of good quality on the ball and endeavour when out of possession, but were struggling enough within the scoreline for their manager to make a double change at half-time. Wilfried Bony was one of those who came on along with Pablo Hernandez, but with the Swans having to chase the game a little more, van Persie made full use of the additional space afforded to him.
With 20 minutes left he let substitute Wayne Rooney run across him to open up the defence and then unleashed a rasping drive into the roof of the net for a 3-0 lead.
Bony's first-time finish put some life into the game with less than 10 minutes to go before Welbeck's delicate chip over Michel Vorm sealed an emphatic victory in injury time to put the champions on top of the table after a single game.
On target: 6-8
Norwich City 2-2 Everton
One of the most entertaining games of the day came at Carrow Road as Norwich City and Everton drew 2-2, as the latter side played their first competitive game under new manager Roberto Martinez.
After a goalless first half, Steven Whittaker rode three challenges to bend a shot past Tim Howard within minutes of the restart—only to see the ball bounce back off the post. The Scottish defender kept his cool to finish smartly and open the scoring.
Everton came to life and turned the game around with two goals in five minutes from their two best performers.
First Seamus Coleman waltzed infield and laid the ball off for Ross Barkley, who fired a great finish from 20 yards to equalise. Coleman then added the second goal himself from just two yards out, smashing home after goalkeeper John Ruddy had failed to hold a shot.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel introduced himself to the home fans as the club's record signing by rising to head home the equaliser on 71 minutes, and the game rather deservedly ended with neither team losing.
Nathan Redmond was a good performer for the home team, but Everton dominated long stretches of play with a much more measured passing approach that is a hallmark of Martinez's preferences.
On target: 2-7
West Ham United 2-0 Cardiff City
Joe Cole put West Ham ahead against Premier League newcomers Cardiff City after only 13 minutes, and in truth the Hammers were never really put under severe pressure thereafter.
Kevin Nolan's finish with 15 minutes left on the clock wrapped up the game for the home side, who showed Cardiff just how much further improvement was needed if they are to make a fist of surviving their first season in the top flight.
Stewart Downing made his West Ham debut from the bench, with Modibo Maiga playing the central striker role in the absence of record signing Andy Carroll.
Cardiff fielded new signings Gary Medel and Steven Caulker, but they were severely lacking in attack as they mustered a single shot on target.
On target: 4-1
Sunderland 0-1 Fulham
Sunderland's first full season with Paolo Di Canio in charge started with a defeat despite them dominating chances and possession at home to Fulham.
Despite the large quantity of shots they managed, it was actually fairly tame and predictable pressure from the Stadium of Light team, with Fulham admirably stern in their rearguard action and looking comfortable.
Pajtim Kasami scored the only goal of the game after 52 minutes, with Jozy Altidore and Cabral going close for Sunderland in reply.
On target: 3-1
West Brom 0-1 Southampton
At the Hawthorns, West Brom suffered a home defeat to Southampton after a last-minute penalty from England's newest hero, Rickie Lambert.
West Brom peppered Southampton's defence with half-chances, but the loss of Romelu Lukaku was keenly felt, as they hit the target just a single time all game. The Saints' young side, featuring the likes of Luke Shaw, James Ward-Prowse and Calum Chambers from the start, played with confidence and authority at times, and they will be delighted to have started the season with three points.
On target: 1-2
Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs took three points from their first match of the season with a hard-fought 1-0 win over newly promoted Crystal Palace.
The home side matched their bigger opponents for most of the first half, despite not creating too much themselves, and the match was well poised at the break. Even in the second half, neither goalkeeper was called upon to make too many saves, with the only goal coming from the penalty spot.
Aaron Lennon's run down the flank ended in a hand ball by Dean Moxey, and debutant Roberto Soldado buried the resulting penalty.
A late flurry of pressure from Palace after a triple-change by manager Ian Holloway gave some hope to the home fans, but Hugo Lloris was in excellent form to close out most of the danger before it resulted in clear shooting opportunities.
On target: 3-3
Chelsea 2-0 Hull City
Jose Mourinho's return to management at Stamford Bridge began with a routine win, as Chelsea strolled to a first half lead they never looked like surrendering against new boys Hull City.
The Blues had already spurned a couple of chances early on before Fernando Torres was sent tumbling inside the box by Allan McGregor's mis-timed challenge, giving Frank Lampard a chance to open the scoring from the spot. His penalty was firmly struck, but like Christian Benteke and Jon Walters on Saturday, the midfielder saw his effort saved by the goalkeeper.
It didn't take Chelsea long to find the eventual breakthrough though, with the three attacking midfielders of Eden Hazard, Oscar and debutant Kevin de Bruyne all showing great movement and creativity.
The latter two combined for the Brazilian to slide home from the inside left channel to give Chelsea the lead, before Lampard made it 2-0 before even the half-hour mark was reached, crashing home a swerving, long-range free kick.
Chelsea had plenty more chances to put a disappointing Hull side to bed, but the away side improved after the break by introducing new midfield signings Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore from the bench.
It was a much more tame and tepid affair after the half time break though, as the chances dried up at both ends and Chelsea maintained a solid defensive base to record a win on Mourinho's return.
On target: 6-2