LONDON: Last season’s Premier League champions and runners-up both launched their campaigns with narrow victories.
Manchester City began with a 2-0 win at Newcastle but they were fortunate to do so and achieved their 10th successive win over the Magpies at the cost of five yellow cards.
Most interested spectator, via TV, was Jose Mourinho. Chelsea have strengthened effectively with Thibaut Courtois, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa that even Mourinho has stated: “We feel we are title contenders.” His confidence will be tested at promoted Burnley tomorrow/Monday.
City’s match was preceded by a one-minute’s silence for two Newcastle fans who died in the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine while heading out to support their club during pre-season matches in New Zealand.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini had hoped to bring stability to the dressingroom with contracts extensions confirmed for skipper Vincent Kompany, Samir Nasri, Aleksandr Kolarov, Sergio Aguero and playmaker David Silva.
Yet another injury kept Aguero on the subs’ bench at kickoff but England’s Joe Hart as back in goal after sitting out the Community Shield defeat by Arsenal.
City are still waiting to seal a new deal with Edin Dzeko but he proved his continuing worth with the delicate backheel which set up Silva to shoot City into a first-half lead. Midway through the second half he popped a header inches over the crossbar.
By that stage Newcastle were fighting back strongly as debutants Daryl Janmaat, Jack Colback, Remy Cabella and Emmanuel Riviere all adjusted quickly to the pace of Premier League football.
The trickery of French World Cup midfielder Cabella provoked a yellow card for Martin Demichelis for a clumsy foul but City remained largely in control.
Dzeko was substituted, with eight minutes remaining, by Aguero who decided the match two minutes into stoppage time.
Suarez not missed?
Earlier Liverpool began life without Luis Suarez with a win but it was only by 2-1 over a Southampton side who had sold three of their finest players to their rivals during the summer.
In fact only defender Dejan Lovren played at Anfield with Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana not yet ready.
One of Liverpool’s other England World Cup forwards, Raheem Sterling, put them ahead midway through the first half but Ronald Koeman’s rebuilt Saints levelled through Nathaniel Clyne just after half-time.
Southampton looked the more likely winners for much of a lively second half and were unlucky to be beaten by a 79th-minute strike from Daniel Sturridge.