Mon, Aug 13, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Liverpool warn rivals with win

AGENCIES, LONDON

Goalkeeper Stuart Taylor of Aston Villa fails to save a shot by Steven Gerrard of Liverpool during their Premiership match at Villa Park in Birmingham, England, on Saturday. Liverpool won the match 2-1.

PHOTO: AFP

Liverpool fired an early warning to their English Premiership title rivals as they made a gutsy winning start to the new season.

With manager Rafael Benitez under pressure to deliver the Reds' first Premiership trophy after the club spent a small fortune in the preseason, Liverpool sent a statement of intent to Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal with a 2-1 win at Aston Villa on Saturday.

But Arsenal answered the challenge yesterday, as striker Robin van Persie converted an 83rd minute penalty and Alexander Hleb struck a 90th minute winner to give them a 2-1 victory over Fulham at the Emirates Stadium yesterday.

A goalkeeping howler by Jen Lehmann handed Fulham the lead with under a minute left on the clock, the German's fluffed clearance leaving Fulham's new Northern Ireland striker David Healy with a tap-in on his competitive debut.

Fulham, who lost keeper Antti Niemi to injury in the warm-up and had to deploy reserve Tony Warner, looked to have secured a remarkable win until Kolo Toure went down under a challenge by Carlos Bocanegra and Dutchman Van Persie scored from the spot.

Fired up by the equalizer, the hosts piled on the pressure and were rewarded when Belarus midfielder Hleb rifled home the winner off a ball from Spaniard Cesc Fabregas.

On Saturday, the season began in exciting fashion as three other managers with a point to prove were able to come away with opening day victories.

Sven-Goran Eriksson, branded a flop as England manager, saw his Manchester City side win 2-0 at West Ham in his first Premiership test.

Newcastle boss Sam Allardyce took his new side to his former club Bolton Wanderers and returned with a 3-1 win.

And Roy Keane, in his first game as a Premiership boss, saw his newly promoted Sunderland side beat big-spending visitors Tottenham 1-0 with a last-gasp goal.

Elsewhere, hosts Derby drew 2-2 with Portsmouth, Everton beat visitors Wigan 2-1 and Blackburn earned a 2-1 win at Middlesbrough.

Liverpool's talismanic captain Steven Gerrard scored a late winner at Villa Park to serve notice to the Reds' rivals.

The Reds took the lead against Villa through a 31st-minute Martin Laursen own goal, the Denmark defender turning in Liverpool striker Dirk Kuyt's cross.

The Villains thought they had salvaged a point five minutes from time when Reds defender Jamie Carragher unintentionally handled the ball in the penalty box and Villa captain Gareth Barry scored on the resulting spot-kick.

However, two minutes later, Gerrard lashed in a splendid free kick to win it for Liverpool.

At Upton Park, Eriksson got off to a flying start -- despite having admitting to never having seen many of his newly signed players before.

Both City and West Ham have spent heavily on new players in the pre-season, but it was Eriksson's investments that delivered an early return.

Italian forward Roland Bianchi scored in the 18th minute and Brazilian international striker Geovanni sealed victory three minutes from full time.

Allardyce knows all about Bolton from his seven-and-a-half years in charge at the Reebok and he put it to good use on his return.

Skilful French winger Charles N'Zogbia scored Newcastle's first 11 minutes in before Nigeria hitman Obefami Martins bagged a brace in the 21st and 27th minutes -- sending a message to England forward Michael Owen that he faces a fight to be the first choice striker.

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