Arsenal claimed their first English Premier League victory and consigned Liverpool to their worst start to a season in 50 years with a 2-0 win at Anfield on Sunday, courtesy of goals by the visitors’ two big summer signings.
Santi Cazorla slipped in Lukas Podolski for the Germany forward’s opener in the 31st minute before the roles were reversed, with the Spain midfielder finding the net with a low 68th-minute shot that deflected in off goalkeeper Pepe Reina’s elbow.
They were Arsenal’s first goals of the new campaign and a third straight clean sheet lifted Arsene Wenger’s team into the top half of the standings.
“The sharpness gets better from game to game but overall we looked solid,” Wenger said.
“We had a convincing team performance.”
In the day’s other games Robin van Persie struck twice late on to complete his hat-trick and seal a dramatic 3-2 victory for Manchester United over Southampton and Newcastle United were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Aston Villa, leaving Southampton as the only top-flight side still without a point.
Liverpool, who failed to add some much-needed signings to the squad on Friday’s transfer deadline day, stayed rooted in the bottom four with one point from three games under new manager Brendan Rodgers. That equalled the unwanted record of Bill Shankly’s newly promoted side in the 1962-63 season.
Two days after failing in their bid to sign free-scoring forward Clint Dempsey from Fulham, the hosts’ lack of attacking power was evident, with strikers Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini unable to create any noteworthy chances. New signing Nuri Sahin was subdued in midfield, too.
It doesn’t get any easier for Liverpool either, with an away match at Sunderland and then fierce rivals Manchester United at home coming up after the two-week international break.
For Arsenal, however, there are signs that all is not lost after the summer departures of striker Robin van Persie and holding midfielder Alex Song – arguably their two best players last season.
Cazorla, the Spain playmaker, has slotted in well in midfield, where fit-again Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta had excellent games alongside him.
And in Podolski, the Gunners have a forward who has an eye for goal like Van Persie and who can hopefully bring the best out of fellow attacker Olivier Giroud, who remains without a goal but had an encouraging display.
Podolski’s goal came after Steven Gerrard lost possession carelessly in Arsenal’s half. The German passed to Cazorla to start the counterattack, racing forward to receive a neat pass and slip a low left-footed finish past Reina.
Giroud wasted a great chance four minutes before the break, before Arsenal was forced to weather some concerted pressure at the start of the second half.
Liverpool couldn’t turn their dominance into goals, though, and the visitors made them pay. Cazorla drifted across the pitch, switched the ball to Podolski and took the return pass before scoring.
|Robin Van Persie makes up for his missed penalty [Reuters]|
“The whole team have had a strong game,” said Diaby, the rangy France international who looks set for a regular place in Arsenal’s midfield if he can stay free of injury.
“We need to keep going.”
Robin van Persie made up for an embarrassing failure from the penalty spot by grabbing a hat trick with two late goals in Manchester United’s dramatic 3-2 win at Southampton on Sunday, earning the English giants a second straight win in the Premier League.
In a fitting way to mark United manager Alex Ferguson’s 1,000th league game in charge, Van Persie equalised in the 87th minute before heading home a corner in the second minute of injury time for his fourth goal since joining from Arsenal for 24 million pounds in the offseason.
In the day’s other match. Hatem Ben Arfa smashed in a stunning second-half equaliser to earn Newcastle a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa in the Premier League on Sunday.
The France playmaker cut inside off his favoured left foot and arrowed a rising shot into the far corner from 20 yards in the 59th minute, denying Villa a first win of the season.