Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling (right) scores their fifth goal against West Ham to complete his hat-trick during their EPL match at The London Stadium on Saturday. Agence France-Presse
Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick as Manchester City opened the defence of their Premier League title in style on Saturday before Tottenham recovered to beat Aston Villa, courtesy of two Harry Kane strikes.
Pep Guardiola’s City thumped West Ham 5-0 in the early kick-off but despite City’s devastating display, the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system for the first time in the Premier League proved the big talking point.
Champions League finalists Spurs recovered from the shock of conceding an early goal to beat newly promoted Villa 3-1, with late goals for new signing Tanguy Ndombele and two for Kane while there were wins for Burnley and Brighton.
City, whose match was interrupted by a series of reviews, had a goal ruled out for the tightest of offside calls against Sterling and Sergio Aguero was given the chance to retake a penalty by VAR after seeing his first attempt saved.
“Only what I wish is that VAR doesn’t make mistakes please,” said Guardiola, who felt that his side’s disallowed goal should have stood.
Liverpool’s 4-1 victory over Norwich on Friday sent the message to City that they are up for another titanic title battle after missing out by just one point last season.
But in a worrying sign for those trying to stop Guardiola’s men romping to a third straight league crown, City cruised to victory despite being far from their best before half-time.
The visitors led at the break thanks to Gabriel Jesus’ opener, but moved through the gears after the break as Sterling scored twice.
Aguero then denied the England international the chance to seal his hat-trick from the spot, before the 24-year-old eventually grabbed his third goal of the game in stoppage time.
“Perfect start? It terms of the result yes, in terms of the performance no,” said the ever-demanding Guardiola. “In the first-half we were sloppy with our passes.”
In the later match, Spurs were given a huge scare by Villa, who led for the bulk of the game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium through John McGinn’s early strike. But relentless pressure from the Champions League finalists eventually told as Ndombele equalised in the 73rd minute.
England captain Kane broke the visitors’ hearts with goals in the 86th and 90th minutes.
Brighton’s new manager Graham Potter enjoyed a dream start to his time in charge as the Seagulls beat last season’s FA Cup finalists Watford 3-0 at Vicarage Road.
Abdoulaye Doucoure’s own goal gave the visitors a half-time lead before Florin Andone and Neil Maupay on his debut sealed a highly impressive three points for a Brighton side that narrowly escaped relegation last season.
Burnley were also 3-0 winners at Turf Moor as an Ashley Barnes double and Johann Gudmundsson’s strike condemned Southampton to a heavy defeat.
Crystal Palace’s wantaway star Wilfried Zaha put his grievances with the club’s hierarchy behind him to make an appearance as a second-half substitute against Everton, but neither side could break the deadlock in a 0-0 draw.
Everton were one of the biggest spenders in the window with seven new signings, but were forced to hang on for a point when Morgan Schneiderlin was sent off. Speaking about Zaha’s performance, Palace coach Roy Hodgson said: “He did well, set us up for a chance that could have won us the game.
“He’s a little bit rusty, when a player comes back from three weeks away he’s going to end a bit of time to find his true form. He’s phenomenal when it comes to fitness.” Sheffield United grabbed a late point away to Bournemouth on their return to the top flight. Chris Mepham put the Cherries in front just after the hour mark on the south coast, but Billy Sharp’s strike two minutes from time salvaged a 1-1 draw for the Blades.
English Premier League results:
On Saturday: Bournemouth 1 (Mepham 62) Sheffield United 1 (Sharp 88); Burnley 3 (Barnes 63, 70, Gudmundsson 75) Southampton 0; Crystal Palace 0 Everton 0; Tottenham 3 (Ndombele 73, Kane 86, 90) Aston Villa 1 (McGinn 9); Watford 0 Brighton 3 (Doucoure 28-og, Andone 65, Maupay 77); West Ham 0 Manchester City 5 (Jesus 25, Sterling 51, 75, 90+1, Aguero 86-pen)
On Friday: Liverpool 4 (Hanley 7-og, Salah 19, Van Dijk 28, Origi 42) Norwich 1 (Pukki 64)
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he expects this season’s Premier League title race to be more open than last season’s when his side pipped Liverpool to the line in a two-horse race after an epic tussle.
VAR denied Manchester City a win against Tottenham for the second time in four months as the visitors secured a 2-2 draw at the Etihad on Saturday despite being largely outclassed by the Premier League champions.
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