REUTERS/Darren StaplesWest Bromwich Albion’s Zoltan Gera (L) celebrates his goal against Liverpool with Shane Long during their English Premier League soccer match at The Hawthorns, August 18, 2012.
LONDON — Liverpool was the huge casualty on the Premier League’s opening day, losing 3-0 at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, while Arsenal began life without Robin van Persie with a frustrating 0-0 draw against Sunderland.
Goals weren’t a problem for Fulham and Swansea, with both teams enjoying 5-0 routs, while West Ham and Reading avoided defeat in their first matches back in the topflight.
Neither defending champion Manchester City nor Manchester United, which was denied the trophy in the final seconds of the last season, were in action on Saturday.
Instead, fallen giant Liverpool was the subject of the biggest upset, going down to its heaviest opening-day defeat since 1937 in another reminder of just how far it has slipped behind the title challengers.
Replacing Kenny Dalglish with the youthful Brendan Rodgers from Swansea after last season’s eighth-place finish hasn’t provided the immediate uplift in fortunes so desired by Liverpool’s American owners.
Zoltan Gera put West Brom in front before the break, and Liverpool was reduced to 10 men early in the second half when Daniel Agger conceded a penalty that was missed by Shane Long.
Peter Odemwingie was more accurate from the penalty spot in the 64th after Martin Skrtel had fouled Long, and Romelu Lukaku rounded off the win with a 77th-minute header.
At Emirates Stadium, Arsenal overwhelmed Sunderland but lacked a slicing edge from new strikers Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, one day after Robin van Persie defected to Manchester United.
“The few chances we had we couldn’t convert them … they defended the whole game very well,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “We lacked something I would call sharpness and quality, and more accuracy in the final pass.
“The formation didn’t work with three strikers up front. We were not balanced and we did not create enough.”
That wasn’t a problem in west London.
At Craven Cottage, Fulham didn’t miss rebellious striker Clint Dempsey — last season’s top scorer for the west London club — as Norwich was crushed 5-0.
After Damien Duff’s 26th-minute opener, Mladen Petric scored twice, Alex Kacaniklic netted the fourth, and Steve Sidwell finished the rout from the penalty spot late on.
At Loftus Road, though, host Queens Park Rangers was on the end of a 5-0 thumping by Swansea in a clash of sides both playing a second straight season in the Premier League.
New signing Michu and Nathan Dyer each scored twice before Scott Sinclair hit the fifth.
“Winning the first game in my debut, and also the team’s first in their second season in the Premier League, away and 5-0,” stated Michael Laudrup, who replaced Rodgers as Swansea manager. “I don’t think anyone could’ve dreamed about that.
“Last season I think it took until January to win the first away game, and it is very important that you know you can win an away game as it gives you a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.”
In east London, West Ham made a winning return to the topflight as Kevin Nolan’s goal clinched a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa.
Promoted Reading avoided defeat when Adam Le Fondre scored a late penalty to secure a 1-1 draw against Stoke, canceling out Michael Kightly’s opener.
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