Liverpool crashed to a shock 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion in Brendan Rodgers’ first Premier League match as Reds boss, while Arsenal started life without Robin van Persie with a dour 0-0 draw against Sunderland on Saturday.
Rodgers took over from Kenny Dalglish after Liverpool finished eighth last season, their worst final position for 18 years, and on the evidence of a shocking result at The Hawthorns the former Swansea manager still has plenty of work to do.
Rodgers, who gave debuts to new signings Joe Allen and Fabio Borini, leaving unsettled striker Andy Carroll on the bench, might have feared the worst when he saw Zoltan Gera blast Albion into the lead with a stunning 43rd-minute strike.
It was a sweet moment for Albion manager Steve Clarke, who was sacked by Liverpool at the end of last season after spending 18 months at Anfield as Dalglish’s assistant.
Pepe Reina kept Liverpool in the match when he saved Shane Long’s woeful second-half penalty after Reds defender Daniel Agger was sent off for a professional foul, but Albion won another penalty in the 64th minute and this time Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie stepped up to blast home.
Then Romelu Lukaku, on loan from Chelsea, rubbed salt into Liverpool’s wounds when he marked his West Brom debut with a 77th-minute strike.
“Some decisions went against us. The sending off and penalties were very, very harsh I felt,” Rodgers said. “We will have more days like this along the way, that is the reality, but I could not ask any more from the players.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger saw his Gunners team fail to break down Sunderland at the Emirates Stadium in the first game since Dutch striker Van Persie’s ￡24 million (US$37.7 million) move to Manchester United.
Wenger gave debuts to Germany striker Lukas Podolski and Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla, while French forward Olivier Giroud, another new signing, came off the bench, but the new boys were underwhelming, with Giroud missing the best chance of the afternoon.
“Playing three strikers didn’t work. We had no space and the passing was not quick enough, so it was difficult for them, but it’s one game and it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions,” Wenger said.
New Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas suffered a losing start as Newcastle United won 2-1 at St James’ Park in the day’s late game.
Villas-Boas, sacked by Chelsea last season, saw Newcastle take the lead through Demba Ba’s superb 54th-minute goal.
Jermain Defoe equalized with a close-range effort in the 76th minute, but Hatem Ben Arfa was hauled down by Aaron Lennon four minutes later and the French midfielder picked himself up to score the spot-kick.
West Ham United enjoyed a winning return to the top flight as Sam Allardyce’s side beat Aston Villa 1-0 at Upton Park in Paul Lambert’s first game as Villa boss.
The Hammers, promoted via the Championship playoffs, took the points when Kevin Nolan side-footed home in the 40th minute.
Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup savored a five-star debut as new boy Michu inspired a 5-0 demolition of Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
Michu, signed by Laudrup from Rayo Vallecano de Madrid for ￡2 million, took just eight minutes to score and the Spaniard struck again in the 53rd minute.
Nathan Dyer netted in the 63rd and 71st minutes, then Scott Sinclair scored in the 81st minute.