Alvaro Negredo came off the bench and scored for the second Premier League match running as Manchester City edged promoted Hull City 2-0 on Saturday.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side were laboring in the sunshine at the Etihad Stadium and endured several nervous moments before the former Sevilla striker made the breakthrough 20 minutes into the second half.
A sumptuous last-minute free-kick from Yaya Toure settled matters, but after their shock 3-2 loss at promoted Cardiff City last weekend, City once again showed plenty of margin for improvement.
“It was hard work. Every match is going to be hard work,” Pellegrini said. “Hull defended very well. We know you have to give 100 percent to win every match, but I think today that we were more concentrated in defense than the last game against Cardiff.”
Manchester City made two changes to their starting XI, with fit-again Matija Nastasic replacing Javi Garcia in central defense and Aleksandar Kolarov coming in for Gael Clichy at leftback, while Danny Graham took the place of suspended striker Yannick Sagbo for Hull.
The visitors started brightly, with Sone Aluko wastefully dragging a shot wide after bursting clear in the eighth minute and Graham seeing a volley chalked off for offside.
Pellegrini introduced new signing Negredo in place of the ineffective Edin Dzeko at halftime and the Spaniard almost made an immediate impact, only to completely miscue his header from David Silva’s lofted pass.
Negredo would not be denied, though, and in the 65th minute he broke the deadlock with a firm downward header from Pablo Zabaleta’s floated right-wing cross.
It had been an arduous afternoon for the 2011-2012 champions, but Toure added sheen to the result by bending a free-kick over the wall and in off the crossbar in the 90th minute.
“You know that Achilles heel we have got — can we score?” Hull manager Steve Bruce asked. “We’ve had really good possession, played well, created the chances, can we score the goal? Unfortunately, we’ve created enough, but we haven’t been able to score and that’s the difference at this level.”
Promoted Crystal Palace recorded their first win of the season after late goals from Dwight Gayle and Stuart O’Keefe secured a 3-1 victory at home to Sunderland in the evening game.
Danny Gabbidon’s fortuitous early opener was canceled out by a 64th-minute header from fit-again Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher, but Gayle restored the hosts’ lead with a penalty 11 minutes from time after visiting captain John O’Shea had been sent off for bringing him down in the penalty area.
Substitute O’Keefe added a fine third in stoppage-time, curling a superb strike into the top-left corner from the edge of the area.
Unsettled Newcastle United midfielder Yohan Cabaye made his return as a second-half substitute against Fulham at St James’ Park, but it was another Frenchman, Hatem Ben Arfa, who proved the match-winner in a 1-0 victory.
The former Olympique de Marseille winger jinked infield from the right, before bending a fierce shot past goalkeeper David Stockdale in the 86th minute to give Alan Pardew’s side a first victory of the season.
Pardew said that the presence of Cabaye, who was the subject of an unsuccessful bid from Arsenal, was not a guarantee that he would stay at the club beyond the close of the transfer window.
“It doesn’t mean he’s staying because the window is staying open until 11pm on Monday,” the Newcastle manager said. “It’s a worry and we’ve marked his agent’s card that if he wants to do business, then he should do it early.”
Stoke City also left it late before inflicting a first defeat of the season on West Ham United at Upton Park, with Jermaine Pennant scoring the game’s only goal from an 82nd-minute free-kick.
New signing Nathan Redmond earned Norwich City a 1-0 win over Southampton, cutting in from the left and drilling a low shot into the bottom-left corner midway through the second half at Carrow Road.
Meanwhile, Cardiff City followed up their shock win over Manchester City with a 0-0 draw at home to Everton.