Blackpool hit four to go top

Newcomers thrash Wigan to briefly head table before Chelsea overtake with 6-0 win.

    Alex Baptiste, right, scored Blackpool's fourth on a dream return to the top flight [AFP]

    Blackpool enjoyed a dream return to English football's top flight when they lit up the opening day of the Premier League season by thrashing Wigan Athletic 4-0 on away territory.

    Marlon Harewood, one of a rash of midweek signings for the club that has languished in the lower divisions since 1971, scored twice at the DW Stadium as home fans booed their team.

    Free-spending Manchester City's assault on silverware began with a 0-0 draw at Tottenham Hotspur, the side who pipped them to fourth spot last season, thanks to a sensational goalkeeping performance by Joe Hart.

    Aston Villa responded to the shock resignation of manager Martin O'Neill with a 3-0 win over West Ham United with winger James Milner, playing despite a looming move to Manchester City, scoring his side's third goal.

    Blackburn Rovers beat Everton 1-0 and Wolverhampton Wanderers were also home winners, beating Stoke City 2-1.

    Ten-man Birmingham City grabbed a later equaliser to draw 2-2 at Sunderland and Fulham and Bolton Wanderers finished goalless.

    Champions Chelsea beat West Bromwich Albion 6-0 later on Saturday with Liverpool at home to Arsenal on Sunday and Manchester United hosting Newcastle United at Old Trafford on Monday.

    Top billing

    Favourites for relegation and with their dated Bloomfield Road ground still undergoing a makeover, Blackpool stole top billing as the world's most-hyped league opened for business.

    Their rout of Wigan put them top of the embryonic table before Chelsea's match and had manager Ian Holloway praising his players to the hilt.

    "This is a great group of lads and we had a great day today," Holloway, who gained promotion via the playoffs last season, told Sky Sports.

    "I had to throw in three boys today who had literally just met each other. If we stay together we may cut it and have half a chance to stay above three teams at the end of the season."

    Manchester City paraded an expensive array of signings at a drizzly White Hart Lane but it was Hart who excelled.

    Selected ahead of Shay Given, he made six stunning saves to keep Tottenham at bay before City, who gave debuts to midfielders Yaya Toure and David Silva and defender Aleksandar Kolarov, improved after the break.

    "I was happy to make the saves and be part of a good performance," Hart told the BBC.

    "All I wanted to do was play for Man City but I've got to keep on my toes because Shay is a great keeper and next week I might be out of the team again."

    Blackpool's preparations had been somewhat ramshackle but Wigan threw down the welcome mat as the visitors cruised into a deserved 3-0 lead by half time.

    Gary Taylor-Fletcher side-footed Blackpool ahead before former Villa and West Ham frontman Harewood struck twice.

    Wigan, jeered off at half time, had a goal disallowed after the break and their afternoon got worse when Alex Baptiste made it 4-0.

    While Blackpool will be happy to finish 17th this season, Tottenham and Manchester City will be hoping for a title tilt and the evidence at White Hart Lane was encouraging.

    Passing rhythm

    Spurs were the more cohesive side before half time as they clicked straight into their passing rhythm.

    City have spent more than $156 million since finishing fifth but it was Hart who saved them.

    His first reflex stop to block Jermain Defoe's close-range volley was superb and minutes later he tumbled to his right to save a dipping volley from Tom Huddlestone.

    City improved after the break and Shaun Wright-Phillips was sent clear by a scooped pass from Toure but he was denied by Assou-Ekotto.

    City's workaholic skipper Carlos Tevez also had a shot deflected wide and Tottenham's Gareth Bale wasted the best chance when he scuffed a shot wide with the goal gaping.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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