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Nightmare start for Rodgers, Arsenal poor without RVP

ESPN staff
August 18, 2012 « Jones snubs Machida rematch | Chartbeat test »
Daniel Agger saw red in Liverpool's defeat at the Hawthorns © Getty Images
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Brendan Rodgers made a dreadful start to his Liverpool league career with a 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion, while Arsenal's attack looked blunted in the absence of Robin van Persie as they were held 0-0 by Sunderland.

Elsewhere, there was a two-goal debut for Michu as Swansea thrashed QPR 5-0, while Mladen Petric also netted a brace as Fulham crushed Norwich by the same scoreline.

Steve Clarke punished former club Liverpool, who were reduced to ten men, at the Hawthorns in his first fixture as manager of West Brom.

The Reds, who gave starts to summer signings Joe Allen and Fabio Borini, fell behind to Zoltan Gera's first goal for the Baggies in over four years; a long-range bullet that arrowed into the top corner, with Pepe Reina helpless. Rodgers' men were then handed a reprieve when Shane Long missed a second-half penalty after Daniel Agger, who has been linked with Manchester City this summer, was sent off for the first time in his Liverpool career.

However, Peter Odemwingie did hit the back of the net from the spot a few minutes later after a second, more dubious, penalty was awarded, before on-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku completed the scoring having been left unmarked in the box.

New recruits Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud were unable to inspire Arsenal to victory at home to Sunderland.

The Gunners, who had Barcelona-bound midfielder Alex Song absent from the matchday squad, made a nervy start to the game and should have been punished inside the first ten minutes - only for James McClean to fire straight at Wojciech Szczesny when in space in the area. However, the hosts grew into the contest, and Cazorla twice went close as they ended the half the stronger.

Hatem Ben Arfa celebrates his winner © PA Photos
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Arsenal had all the possession in the second period without finding a cutting edge, until Giroud missed a sitter in the final minutes having been set through by a fine reverse pass from Cazorla.

In the evening kick-off, Newcastle inflicted a debut defeat upon new Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas as the home side ran out 2-1 winners.

Demba Ba opened the scoring with a sumptuous volley shortly after the half-time break to give the Magpies the lead, before Spurs eventually equalised - much to Villas-Boas's delight - after Jermain Defoe reacted quickest to slip a rebound inside Tim Krul's near post, after the Dutchman had scrambled to stop a deflected header.

Just three minutes later, however, Newcastle restored their lead - Hatem Ben Arfa winning a penalty after Rafael van der Vaart and Aaron Lennon could only combine to bring him down in the box. The Frenchman seemed to have a bit of a debate with Ba over who would take the resultant spot-kick, but Ben Arfa refused to relinquish the ball and proceeded to slot the ball to Brad Friedel's left to ultimately secure all three points.

Toon manager Alan Pardew watched all that unfold from the stands - having been sent off by the referee for pushing the linesman after taking umbrage with what he perceived to be a wrong decision.

Michael Laudrup's managerial bow in the Premier League was a huge success as Swansea hammered QPR at Loftus Road.

Santi Cazorla made an impressive debut for Arsenal © Getty Images
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The first goal of the Premier League season was netted by Michu, the visitors' £2m summer arrival from Rayo Vallecano, whose 20-yard drive crept under Rob Green's body. That was the only Swansea highlight of a half in which they were clinging to their lead, as the Hoops somehow contrived to not find an equaliser despite a host of opportunities.

The Swans' second, again scored by Michu following a fine finish, also came against the run of play - but after that, they were able to pick off QPR with embarrassing ease. Nathan Dyer added two more, with Mark Hughes' side looking all over the place defensively, and Scott Sinclair made it five.

Norwich boss Chris Hughton was given a sobering reminder of the relegation fight he could face as Fulham ran out 5-0 winners at Craven Cottage. Damien Duff opened the scoring, before Petric added goals two and three - the latter a 25-yarder which flew in with the aid of a deflection from Michael Turner. Alexander Kacaniklic piled more misery on Hughton, while Steve Sidwell made it five from the spot.

Kevin Nolan's strike ensured West Ham made a victorious return to the Premier League, beating Aston Villa 1-0 at Upton Park. There was some controversy over the goal, with a delay before it was awarded as referee Mike Dean talked to his assistant over whether Ricardo Vaz Te was offside in the build-up.

At the Madejski Stadium, an 89th-minute Adam Le Fondre penalty earned Reading a draw with Stoke - whose opener was scored by Michael Kightly. The visitors also had Dean Whitehead sent off for two bookable offences.

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