Premier League

Arsenal and Man City impress as Liverpool lose

A debut goal from Emmanuel Adebayor helped big-spending Manchester City to a 2-0 victory at Blackburn Rovers on the opening day of the Premier League season, while Thomas Vermaelen was among the scorers on his Arsenal bow as the Gunners won 6-1 at Everton.

Dream start
Adebayor, a €29m signing from Arsenal last month, gave Mark Hughes’s expensively-assembled outfit the perfect start at Ewood Park, firing the visitors in front after three minutes. Hughes introduced Carlos Tévez in place of Robinho for his City debut after 69 minutes, but it was one of the club’s homegrown players, Stephen Ireland, who confirmed all three points in added time.

Adebayor’s former team registered the biggest win of the day, however, striking three times in each half ahead of their UEFA Champions League play-off against Celtic on Tuesday. Denilson, Vermaelen, William Gallas, two from Cesc Fàbregas and an Eduardo da Silva strike made it 6-0 before Louis Saha (90) struck a consolation.

Debutant Stephen Hunt (28) put Hull City ahead in the early kick-off at Chelsea and so had the honour of scoring the first top-flight goal of the season. Didier Drogba (37) curled in a free-kick and scored with a cross-cum-shot in added time, ensuring Carlo Ancelotti a winning start to life as manager of the west-London outfit.

Wayne Rooney proved decisive as Manchester United began their Premier League title defence with a 1-0 home win over newly promoted Birmingham City, while prospective challengers Liverpool kicked off with a 2-1 loss at Tottenham Hotspur.

Trying to become the first club to collect four consecutive Premier League crowns, United created plenty of openings as they strived to demonstrate they have not been weakened by the summer departure of Cristiano Ronaldo. Portuguese winger Nani and England international Rooney were particularly effective and the duo combined to crucial effect after 34 minutes, Nani crossing from the left and his team-mate prodding the ball in after his initial header had come back off a post.

Birmingham posed their own danger shortly afterwards as Patrice Evra was forced to clear a Grégory Vignal header off the line from a corner, and the visitors again looked set to equalise with 13 minutes remaining, only for Ben Foster to conjure a superb save to deny Christian Benítez. There was no denying the team on top, however, and both Rooney and substitute Michael Owen spurned opportunities to add some late gloss to the scoreline.

Title hopefuls Liverpool suffered opening-day disappointment on the other hand, Spurs debutant Sébastien Bassong hitting the winning goal at White Hart Lane a minute shy of the hour mark. The hosts had earlier taken a deserved 44th-minute lead when Benoît Assou-Ekotto beat Pepe Reina with a thunderous effort into the top corner and although Steven Gerrard levelled from the penalty spot with 56 minutes gone following a Heurelho Gomes foul on Glen Johnson, Bassong headed in shortly afterwards.

Meanwhile, Darren Bent (5) scored the only goal on his Sunderland debut as the north-east club won 1-0 at Bolton Wanderers, and Wigan Athletic upset UEFA Europa League contenders Aston Villa with a 2-0 win at Villa Park. Burnley’s first top-flight match in 33 years ended in a 2-0 defeat at Stoke City, while their fellow newcomers Wolverhampton Wanderers faired little better, losing by the same score at home to West Ham United. Elsewhere, Fulham won 1-0 at Portsmouth.