Liverpool stumbles, Tottenham impresses in EPL openers
LONDON (AP) — While Liverpool made a stuttering start to the English Premier League, Tottenham showed it might be ready to take another step forward under Antonio Conte.
Liverpool had to come from behind twice to salvage a 2-2 draw at promoted Fulham on Saturday, largely thanks to new signing Darwin Nunez, after a performance that Jurgen Klopp conceded was well short of the team’s standards.
Tottenham also conceded an early goal but came roaring back to earn a 4-1 victory at home against Southampton after a dominant display that hinted that Spurs are well gelled after a full offseason under Conte, who took over as manager last November.
Chelsea also had a winning start but in less impressive fashion, holding on for 1-0 at Everton after Jorginho netted a late first-half penalty.
Newcastle, Leeds and Bournemouth also won in their league openers.
At Craven Cottage, Fulham threatened to pull off a major upset as Aleksandar Mitrovic put the hosts ahead twice against Liverpool. But Nunez came off the bench to score one goal and set up the other for Mohamed Salah.
Liverpool nearly grabbed all three points when Jordan Henderson hit the crossbar in injury time with a long-distance shot, but even Klopp agreed that a win would have been undeserved.
“The start of the game was really bad from us,” Klopp said. “No direction, no positivity, no opening up, no breaking lines, nothing (of) what you have to do.”
It was a different story in north London, where Tottenham reacted superbly to going behind in the 12th minute.
Ryan Sessegnon and Eric Dier put Spurs in front by halftime and Southampton defender Mohammed Salibu netted a comical own goal when trying to clear the ball off the line in the 61st minute. Dejan Kulusevski capped a stellar performance by slotting in the fourth two minutes later.
“It was a perfect start for us, despite going behind,” Conte said. “I liked the game a lot for the result but especially the way in which the result was created — creating many chances to score, good possession, good high and medium pressure and we were good when we lost the ball and the intensity to try and get it back. … Today we have seen (the) summer work with my players.”
Conte spent much of last season complaining about a lack of squad depth, but still opted not to start any of the team’s six offseason signings. Ivan Perisic, Clement Lenglet and Yves Bissouma came off the bench instead to show that Conte also has increased options this season as Spurs tries to join champion Manchester City and Liverpool in the fight for the title.
NEWCASTLE SPOILS FOREST’S RETURN
Nottingham Forest spent most of the game defending in its return to the top flight after an absence of 23 years. The newcomer held firm for nearly an hour at St. James’ Park but couldn’t prevent Newcastle’s Fabian Schar from finally breaking the deadlock with a long-range shot. Newcastle won 2-0 after Callum Wilson added the second in the 78th.
“We were second best in the game no doubt,” Forest manager Steve Cooper said. “We coped OK in terms of possession and territory but didn’t play well enough with the ball.”
Fellow newcomer Bournemouth got off to a better start after Scott Parker won the battle of the former England midfielders as his team earned a 2-0 home win over Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa.
Jefferson Lerma and Kieffer Moore scored either side of halftime at Vitality Stadium as Gerrard — who played alongside Parker at Euro 2012 — cut a frustrated figure for much of the afternoon.
His expensively assembled team dominated possession in the south-coast sunshine but was toothless in attack.
AARONSON GIVES LEEDS A SPARK
There was a distinct American flavor to Leeds’ 2-1 win over Wolverhampton at home.
U.S international Brenden Aaronson played a key part in the winning goal as he rushed in to meet a cross from Patrick Bamford, although it was credited as an own goal by defender Rayan Ait-Nouri, who tried to clear the ball only to poke it into his own.
Leeds went behind early when Daniel Podence scored for the visitors in the sixth minute with a volley that spun off the turf and in off the underside of the crossbar.
Rodrigo leveled for the hosts in the 24th.
Aaronson and fellow U.S. international Tyler Adams made their first starts for Leeds, which is managed by American coach Jesse Marsch.
“All the debutants did quite well,” Marsch told the BBC. “(Aaronson) is relentless. He is nonstop. His work rate is incredible. I know him well and the thing I know about him is he is only going to get better.”
CHELSEA ‘HAVE THINGS TO IMPROVE’
Chelsea earned its first win at Goodison Park in five visits, but coach Thomas Tuchel acknowledged his team looked rusty as he tries to incorporate new signings while coping with the lack of a pure striker.
“We have things to improve but this isn’t a surprise,” Tuchel said. “We struggled physically but showed the spirit to get the clean sheet.”
Everton is also without a striker and lost two more players as Ben Godfrey was carried off early with a suspected broken leg and Yerry Mina exited in the second half with an ankle injury.
Godfrey’s injury meant there was eight minutes of stoppage time in the first half, and Jorginho converted a penalty seconds before the interval after Abdoulaye Doucoure pulled down Ben Chilwell.
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