Van Per­sie, Man United start hot

Mean­while, alarm bells at Arse­nal

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - SPORTS SOCCER - By Steve Dou­glas

MANCH­ESTER, Eng­land — A spec­tac­u­lar dou­ble from Robin van Per­sie helped Manch­ester United be­gin its Pre­mier League ti­tle de­fence with a 4- 1 win at Swansea, but the alarm bells are ring­ing at his for­mer club Arse­nal just one game into the new sea­son.

David Moyes’ first league match in charge of United couldn’t have gone any bet­ter, with Van Per­sie match­ing Danny Wel­beck’s brace with two bril­liant goals of his own to sig­nal his in­tent on fin­ish­ing top scorer in Eng­land for a third straight sea­son.

There is al­ready an air of dis­con­tent at Arse­nal, how­ever, af­ter a 3- 1 home loss to As­ton Villa, which ended with fans boo­ing the team off and voic­ing their anger at man­ager Arsene Wenger’s fail­ure to strengthen his thread­bare squad in the close sea­son.

Chris­tian Ben­teke scored twice for Villa, with Lau­rent Ko­scielny’s sec­ond- half sendin­goff af­ter two yel­low cards com­pound­ing Arse­nal’s mis­ery.

Liver­pool re­lied on Daniel Stur­ridge’s firsthalf goal and a late penalty save by debu­tant Si­mon Mig­no­let to clinch a 1- 0 vic­tory against Stoke, while West Ham, Southamp­ton and Ful­ham also opened an ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated cam­paign with wins. Nor­wich drew 2- 2 with Ever­ton.

Af­ter se­cur­ing his first piece of sil­ver­ware at United by win­ning the Com­mu­nity Shield last week­end, Moyes now has a maiden league vic­tory to savour. Sud­denly, the pres­sure of fill­ing the boots of pre­de­ces­sor Alex Fer­gu­son, who won 38 ma­jor ti­tles in nearly 27 years at Old Traf­ford be­fore re­tir­ing in May, doesn’t feel so heavy.

“It’s one game in 38 and, from that point of view, it’s just the start for me,” Moyes said.

It helps hav­ing some­one like Van Per­sie in your team.

The Nether­lands striker was the main rea­son why United was able to re­claim the league ti­tle from Manch­ester City last sea­son and he has picked up where he left off, putting United ahead with an ac­ro­batic vol­ley in the 34th minute and then vir­tu­ally seal­ing vic­tory in the 72nd by smash­ing a 20- yarder into the top cor­ner.

With Wel­beck also weigh­ing in with two goals — the sec­ond a deft chip in in­jury time — it jus­ti­fied Moyes’ de­ci­sion to leave un­set­tled striker Wayne Rooney on the bench un­til the 61st minute. Rooney, who has been push­ing for a move away from United, re­ceived a gen­er­ous wel­come by the trav­el­ling sup­port when he en­tered and set up Wel­beck’s sec­ond goal in a sharp cameo.

Wil­fried Bony’s de­but goal for Swansea made it 3- 1 but Swansea faded af­ter a bright start, with its de­fence un­able to cope with the move­ment of Van Per­sie and Wel­beck.

As with United, it’s a case of new sea­son, same old story for Arse­nal.

Wenger’s team is un­likely to be chal­leng­ing for the ti­tle this sea­son un­less the club, which is awash with cash, can re­cruit some mar­quee names to add to a squad that the French man­ager ac­knowl­edged on Fri­day was light on num­bers. Wenger was hit with chants in­clud­ing “You don’t know what you’re do­ing” and “Spend some ( ex­ple­tive) money” min­utes as the fi­nal whis­tle ap­proached against Villa.

“My job is to make the fans happy, but we haven’t lost a game be­cause of that ( not spend­ing),” Wenger said. “We are ready to spend, but un­til we buy play­ers we have to win football games and it is not an ex­cuse not to win the game to­day.”

Olivier Giroud gave Arse­nal the lead in the sixth minute but Ben­teke, who put in and then with­drew a trans­fer re­quest over the sum­mer, equal­ized in the 22nd when he headed home a re­bound af­ter his penalty was saved by goal­keeper Wo­j­ciech Szczesny.

The Bel­gium striker then con­verted a 66th- minute penalty fol­low­ing Ko­scielny’s clumsy foul on Gabriel Ag­bon­la­hor, earn­ing the defender a first yel­low card, and debu­tant An­to­nio Luna sealed the points in the 85th for Villa by rac­ing clear on the break to score in the bot­tom cor­ner.

It was a much more pos­i­tive start to the cam- paign by Liver­pool, who dom­i­nated against Stoke but only had Stur­ridge’s 25- yard strike to show for its ef­forts.

That profli­gacy al­most cost them when Daniel Ag­ger hand­balled in the area in the 88th minute but Mig­no­let ended a nervy de­but by claw­ing away Jon Wal­ters’ spot kick and then deny­ing Ken­wyne Jones’ ef­fort on the re­bound.

Luis Suarez, who was serv­ing the fifth match of a 10- game ban for bit­ing an op­po­nent last sea­son, was cheered by some fans as he walked the perime­ter of the An­field pitch with his daugh­ter be­fore kick­off de­spite an off- sea­son dom­i­nated by trans­fer spec­u­la­tion sur­round­ing the striker. He watched the match from an ex­ec­u­tive box high up in the stands.

The scorer of Eng­land’s win­ner over Scot­land on Wed­nes­day on his in­ter­na­tional de­but, Rickie Lam­bert com­pleted the per­fect week by con­vert­ing a last- minute penalty for Southamp­ton in a 1- 0 vic­tory at West Bromwich Al­bion.

Goals ei­ther side of the break by Joe Cole and Kevin Nolan were enough for West Ham in a 2- 0 home win over pro­moted Cardiff and Pa­j­tim Kasami grabbed a 52nd- minute win­ner for Ful­ham in a 1- 0 vic­tory at Paolo Di Canio’s Sun­der­land.

Nor­wich went ahead at Car­row Road through Steven Whit­taker be­fore goals by Ross Barkley and Sea­mus Cole­man in a five- minute span gave Ever­ton the lead by the 65th minute. Van Wolf­swinkel lev­elled in the 71st.

— The As­so­ci­ated Press

JON SU­PER / THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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