West Ham stun Ar­se­nal, Liver­pool win 1-0 at Stoke

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY TREVOR HUG­GINS

Two mis­takes by new goal­keeper Petr Cech sent a much-hyped Ar­se­nal side crash­ing to a 2-0 de­feat at home to West Ham, while Liver­pool’s start to the new Premier League sea­son ended with a late 1-0 win at Stoke on Sun­day.

Cech ar­rived from Chelsea with a rep­u­ta­tion for keep­ing clean sheets, but a header from Cheikhou Kouy­ate in the 43rd minute and a low shot by Mauro Zarate in the 57th minute un­ex­pect­edly beat the 33-year-old keeper.

There was lit­tle goal­mouth ac­tion at Stoke un­til Liver­pool’s Brazil­ian midfielder Philippe Coutinho scored with a fe­ro­cious shot from 25 me­ters in the 86th minute.

The points were shared at St. James’ Park, where a New­cas­tle side un­der new coach Steve McClaren drew 2-2 with Southamp­ton in the day’s other game.

Ar­se­nal toiled in the sun­shine at Emi­rates Sta­dium, dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion but lack­ing ideas against a West Ham side that has been play­ing com­pet­i­tive pre-sea­son soc­cer in the Europa League un­der new man­ager Slaven Bilic.

“We were not con­vinc­ing of­fen­sively, nor de­fen­sively,” Ar­se­nal man­ager Arsene Wenger told Sky Sports. “I knew be­fore the game it would be a tricky game, that West Ham could be more ad­vanced in their prepa­ra­tion than us.

“But you feel guilty, be­cause if you can­not win the game — don’t lose it. I be­lieve that just be­fore half­time and just af­ter half­time we gave very, very cheap goals away and then we made it even more dif­fi­cult for our­selves.”

Tipped to be ti­tle chal­lengers this sea­son af­ter win­ning two con­sec­u­tive FA Cups and beat­ing cham­pion Chelsea 1-0 in the Com­mu­nity Shield a week ago, Ar­se­nal’s league opener was a re­al­ity check.

“We have to keep our fo­cus,” Wenger said. “It’s just the start of the sea­son. I’m con­vinced that we will re­spond well to that ac­ci­dent.”

Blame for those ac­ci­dents is bound to rest on Cech, af­ter he rushed out to clear a free kick but his gloves ar­rived sec­ond to Kouy­ate’s head. Ar­se­nal’s mar­quee sign­ing for a re­ported fee of about £11 mil­lion (US$17.3 mil­lion) was then wrong-footed by Zarate’s shot from out­side the area.

“Any cham­pi­onship is never a mo­tor­way,” Wenger said. “It’s al­ways (about) re­spond­ing well to ac­ci­dents. To­day we have been hurt men­tally and it’s a good op­por­tu­nity to show we re­spond.”

Bilic had no doubts about the im­pact of Sun­day’s vic­tory, which also saw an im­pres­sive de­but from the youngest West Ham player to ap­pear in the Premier League — 16-year-old de­fender Reece Ox­ford.

“It’s a great start for us,” Bilic said. “Not only be­cause of the three points, but it’s three points against a team that is one of the main con­tenders for the ti­tle this year and that had done re­ally well in the pre­sea­son.

“And if you to add that, that it’s a Lon­don derby and in the last five years we lost all the games home or away against them, that makes it even big­ger.”

Liver­pool also faced a big game of sorts, tak­ing on a Stoke side that had hu­mil­i­ated the Reds in their fi­nal game of last sea­son — in­flict­ing a 6-1 de­feat on Bren­dan Rodgers’ team.

The ta­bles were turned on Sun­day by Coutinho’s mo­ment of magic, when the Brazil­ian took pos­ses­sion and shrugged off a chal­lenge be­fore un­leash­ing a boom­ing shot that grazed the tips of Jack But­land’s gloves on its way in.

“I think we showed a dif­fer­ent type of will and dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter than ob­vi­ously the last time we were here,” Rodgers said. “We de­fended re­ally, re­ally well, and good or­ga­ni­za­tion, and we knew that if we could hold the game and stay tight, then ob­vi­ously as the game wore on our qual­ity can come through.

“It worked per­fectly for us and I thought the play­ers were out­stand­ing. ... And it was a won­der­ful, won­der­ful goal.”

McClaren, mean­while, had to set­tle for a point in a game where both sides had the lead for a while.

Goals from Papiss Cisse and new sign­ing Gini Wi­j­nal­dum put New­cas­tle in com­mand af­ter Graziano Pelle’s 24th-minute opener for the visi­tors.

But sub­sti­tute Shane Long rose to power home a cross from the Dusan Tadic with 11 min­utes to go to se­cure a point.

The first round of matches con­cludes on Mon­day night, when Manch­ester City trav­els to West Bromwich Al­bion.

AP

Stoke’s Ge­off Cameron, left, fights for the ball against Liver­pool’s Jor­dan Hen­der­son dur­ing the English Premier League soc­cer match be­tween Stoke and Liver­pool at the Bri­tan­nia Sta­dium, Stoke, Eng­land, Sun­day, Aug. 9.

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