It was deja vu for Manchester
City and their breathless fans on Sunday as they began the
defence of their Premier League title the way they finished off
last season by battling back to win 3-2 with time ticking down.
Midfielder Samir Nasri struck the 80th-minute winner against
Southampton after the City faithful had been dragged through the
wringer yet again, in contrast to Chelsea fans who saw their new
signing Eden Hazard engineer an easy 2-0 win at Wigan Athletic.
The game started badly for City when their top scorer last
season Sergio Aguero, who netted the dramatic late winner as
they beat Queens Park Rangers 3-2 to win the title in May, was
carried off with a knee injury early on.
A tired-looking David Silva then had a woefully weak penalty
saved before a slimline Carlos Tevez, having won the spot-kick
after a good turn foxed Jos Hooiveld, avoided the offside flag
to score at the near post in the 40th minute after Nasri's pass.
Tevez fell out with coach Roberto Mancini last term after
refusing to warm up as a substitute in September but was drafted
back in towards the end of the campaign and has lost weight
during pre-season to look extra sharp.
City's defence was far from it after the break and promoted
Southampton, back in the top flight for the first time in seven
years, found themselves in front after carbon copy sidefoot
finishes from substitutes Ricky Lambert and Steven Davis.
Abu Dhabi-backed City, who spent millions to help secure
their first top flight league title since 1968, handed a debut
to new signing Jack Rodwell from Everton but his mistake set up
a counter-attack for Davis' goal.
Edin Dzeko, just like he had done against QPR three months
ago, grabbed City's equaliser following a corner and poor
defending from the visitors allowed Nasri to slam in the winner.
"It's like the last game of the season so we started the
same and I hope at the end it will be the same result for us," a
smiling Nasri told Sky Sports.
"It was a difficult game against a good squad in Southampton
who played really good football."
The opening weekend of the Premier League has been packed
with excitement to silence those who thought the recent
successful London Olympics would dull the impact of football's
return to the English consciousness.
Chelsea's Hazard, widely hailed as the next big thing, lived
up to all the hype inside the first seven minutes of his league
debut by setting up both goals.
The Belgium playmaker, who joined the European champions
from Lille in the close season having turned down City and
Manchester United, quickly proved wrong any doubters who
suspected England would be far tougher than the modest French
First he expertly turned marker Ivan Ramis to release right-back Branislav Ivanovic, who ran in and coolly slotted home in
the second minute having been allowed to play despite a red card
in the 3-2 Community Shield loss to City last Sunday.
Hazard then danced his way into the box and was carelessly
upended by error-prone Wigan debutant Ramis, leaving Frank
Lampard to slam in the seventh-minute penalty.
Like the hit-and-miss Fernando Torres, Hazard's level
dropped after the break and he was replaced by fellow new
signing Oscar of Brazil.
"Yes very happy, my first game, win. OK," man of the match
Hazard, 21, said in broken English.
Roberto Di Matteo's side, only sixth in the Premier League
last term despite their Champions League triumph, strolled
through the rest of their season opener as Wigan's Chelsea
target Victor Moses barely troubled goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Manchester United and their new striker Robin van Persie
open their campaign at Everton on Monday.
On Saturday, Liverpool's new boss Brendan Rodgers got off to
an awful start with a 3-0 loss at West Bromwich Albion while
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