Sturridge had already given warning of his threat when he seized on the loose ball after Jordan Henderson had harassed Ashley Young into a mistake. Rio Ferdinand turned away his shot on that occasion. But when Daniel Agger leapt highest at the corner, Sturridge was afforded far too much room inside the six-yard area to turn the ball home.
Robin van Persie was not far away with an overhead kick after Patrice Evra had knocked down a Ryan Giggs free-kick, but largely it was an opening period of unremitting frustration for the visitors.
Nani forced Simon Mignolet into his best save of the match 15 minutes from time, just before Glen Johnson became the latest member of Hodgson’s squad to depart, limping badly after a crunching clash with Evra.
Van Persie could not make the most of a late opportunity provided by Javier Hernandez, and although five additional minutes of injury time brought a few nerves, in the end it was the hosts who came closest to scoring, David De Gea brilliantly turning over Raheem Sterling’s powerful drive.
Meanwhile in North London, Olivier Giroud fired Arsenal to a hard-earned 1-0 win as big-spending Tottenham Hotspur’s summer investment brought no reward.
Arsenal, having so far brought in only two free transfers, earned the bragging rights after Giroud tucked home his fourth goal in five appearances to settle an entertaining, but also heated, contest.
Arsenal swept into the lead after 23 minutes, with a swift counter from Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky seeing the ball played out to Theo Walcott down the right. The England forward cut a pass towards the six-yard box – where Giroud arrived ahead of Spurs captain Michael Dawson at the near post to convert a lovely left-footed finish.
Gunners were forced into a change just before half-time, when midfielder Jack Wilshere signalled he was unable to continue and hobbled off, to be replaced by Mathieu Flamini, the former Gunner rejoining his old club on a free earlier this week.
Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas looked to liven up his attack with 20 minutes left as Dembele was replaced by Jermain Defoe. Arsenal were the next to threaten though, Lloris racing out quickly to beat Walcott to the loose ball again, this time with his hands.
Spurs went close to an equaliser when Defoe’s shot at the near post was saved by Wojciech Szczesny and the follow-up from Soldado cannoned into Giroud. Spurs continued to push Arsenal back during five minutes of stoppage time, but Wenger’s men remained resilient.
Ben Davies’ emphatic volley and Pablo Hernandez’s late second handed Swansea City their first points of the Premier League season, seeing off West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns.
Swansea had started lethargically, but West Brom failed to convert a lively start into goals and paid the price when Davies’ second career goal left them chasing the game.
Hernandez was the provider, attacking the left of the West Brom defence and finding Davies at the second attempt, his first cross having been headed clear. When the ball fell for the left-back he met it with a crisp side-footed volley that left Boaz Myhill rooted.
Hernandez, shortly after grazing the crossbar from 20 yards, was on hand when Michu unselfishly rolled the ball across the box from close range in the 83rd minute. Michu might have shot from an awkward angle, but instead left his fellow Spaniard with a near open goal to power his shot into.