Chelsea held 2-2 by Swansea, Man U edge Spurs
Chelsea began its English Premier League title defense with a red card for goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and a 2- 2 draw at home to Swansea on a frustrating opening Saturday at Stamford Bridge.
Jose Mourinho’s side twice had the lead, but paid the price for Courtois’ rash challenge on Swansea striker Bafetimbi Gomis as the France international raced through on the counterattack.
Referee Michael Oliver had no hesitation in producing a straight red card and pointing to the spot, allowing Gomis to beat substitute keeper Asmir Begovic from the spot and make it 2- 2.
Manchester United needed an own goal to beat Tottenham 1- 0 in the day’s early kickoff, while Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester beat Sunderland 4- 2, and Crystal Palace earned a controversial 3- 1 win at Norwich.
There was no fairytale start to Bournemouth’s first ever season in the topflight, as the team slumped to a 1- 0 defeat to Aston Villa at its 11,700- capacity seaside stadium.
Watford, promoted along with Bournemouth, was twice in front against Everton before having to settle for 2- 2 at Goodison Park.
The biggest game of the day was saved for last, though, as Chelsea came out for what was expected to be a routine victory in west London.
In a hectic
spell midway through the first half, Oscar put the hosts ahead in the 23rd minute, Andre Ayew leveled in the 29th, and Chelsea’s lead was restored with an own goal by Swansea defender Federico Fernandez.
However, everything changed within 10 minutes of the restart, when Courtois felled Gomis as the France striker burst into the area on the break.
Gomis easily converted the penalty in the 55th, and had the ball in the back of the Blues’ net in the 68th, but the strike was ruled out for offside.
Mourinho would not be drawn on the sending off, saying only, “after that, everything is different.”
“We played very well in the first half, the game was under control and the players were playing with more and more confidence,” he said. “To play 35 minutes with one player less in the first match of the season where the condition and the sharpness is not at the top is even more difficult.”
Swansea coach Garry Monk was clearly delighted with his side.
“We were magnificent,” he said. “Everyone contributed for 90 minutes - to come to a very difficult place, to an excellent side, and play the way we played, and have the chances that we had.”
Chelsea was not the only side that had to rely on an own goal.
At Old Trafford, Spurs defender Kyle Walker handed all three points to United by steering the ball into his own net in the 22nd minute as he tried to tackle United captain Wayne Rooney.
It was one of very few chances in a scrappy match, which Louis van Gaal’s new- look United started with four preseason signings.
Sergio Romero was in goal after Van Gaal decided that Real Madrid target David de Gea was not in the right frame of mind to play. Fullback Matteo Darmain, along with midfielders Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay, all made convincing debuts, and Romero improved after some early signs of nerves.
Another of new United’s new signings, midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, replaced Michael Carrick on the hour.
“It was a very difficult game because you have seen two teams that want to press, so every player at the ball had a very small ( amount of) time to play,” Van Gaal said.
The place to go for goals was Leicester, where former Chelsea coach Ranieri made an ideal start to his return to the league after an 11- year absence.
Jamie Vardy struck first with a header after 11 minutes and Riyad Mahrez scored in the 18th and from the penalty spot in the 25th. Jermain Defoe and Steven Fletcher grabbed second- half goals for Sunderland, while Marc Albrighton got Leicester’s fourth to seal the points.
Nothing went right for Norwich, which had a potential equalizer disallowed in what became a heavy home defeat.
Substitute Cameron Jerome thought he’d made it 2-2 when he stretched his boot up for an acrobatic overhead shot that flew into the net in the 74th — only for referee Simon Hooper to whistle for his foot being too high.
Norwich also appealed for a penalty when Sebastien Bassong was pushed over by Connor Wickham in the area in the 89th.
New signing Yohan Cabaye netted Palace’s third on a counterattack in stoppage time.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t get the rub of the green today,” Norwich coach Alex Neil said.
Wilfried Zaha and Damien Delaney gave Palace a 2- 0 lead before Nathan Redmond pulled one back in the 69th.
Bournemouth’s much- awaited game at Vitality Stadium was decided by Villa substitute Rudy Gestede’s header in the 72nd for last season’s FA Cup finalists.
On Sunday, Arsenal welcomes West Ham, Newcastle hosts Southampton, and Liverpool is away to Stoke.
(Above) Swansea’s Lukasz Fabianski, right, claims a ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford Bridge, Saturday, Aug. 8. (Right) Chelsea’s Diego Costa, right, and Swansea’s Ashley Williams challenge for the ball during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Saturday.