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08-14-2011, 01:58 PM #1
Gervinho off as Arsenal draw, Reds held
A poor-quality contest between Newcastle United and Arsenal was overshadowed by an unsavoury tussle between Joey Barton and Gervinho that saw the latter shown a red card.
With just over ten minutes remaining in a game destined to end 0-0, Barton - never a player to shy away from controversy - took exemption to a blatant dive from the £13 million summer signing, dragging him to his feet by the collar and berating him. The Ivory Coast international responded by slapping the midfielder as a number of other players joined the melee, giving Peter Walton little choice but to show him a red card.
Barton was perhaps lucky to avoid similar punishment, receiving only a yellow for his actions. But he successfully overshadowed a disappointing game that saw both sides create few clear-cut chances - with a Robin van Persie free-kick that sailed narrowly over the bar perhaps as good as it got for either side.
Indeed, Arsenal were perhaps lucky not to have a man sent off much earlier in the contest - with Alex Song getting away with what looked a clear stamp on Barton.
Kenny Dalglish's new-look Liverpool side got their 2011-12 Premier League campaign off to a disappointing start on the opening day of the new season, drawing 1-1 with Sunderland at Anfield.
Dalglish spent in the region of £50 million over the summer in order to build a squad strong enough to get back into the top four this season. New signings Jose Enrique, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing all started but, after Luis Suarez handed them a deserved lead, they were pegged back by Sebastian Larsson.
The Reds should have led after only six minutes when Suarez ran clear from the halfway line, only to be fouled by Kieran Richardson, who probably should have been sent off for a professional foul as the Uruguayan attempted to round the goalkeeper. Referee Phil Dowd chose to book the Sunderland man, and Suarez ballooned the resulting spot-kick over the bar.
It only took Suarez five minutes to make amends though, and it was the set-piece excellence of Adam that created the goal. Using that wicked left foot to deliver an inswinging free-kick, Adam fired in a nasty cross that Suarez glanced past Simon Mignolet for 1-0.
Downing then hit the bar from 20 yards prior to half-time, and the Reds were left to rue that moment when Sunderland equalised just before the hour. A deep cross to the back post caught John Flanagan out of position, and Larsson produced a superb scissors kick to beat Pepe Reina.
Queens Park Rangers' 15-year wait for a return to English football's top flight ended in heavy defeat on Saturday as Bolton Wanderers came away with a 4-0 win at Loftus Road. Unlike Liverpool, Neil Warnock's Championship-winning side have had precious little money to spend during the transfer window, and it showed as Bolton triumphed thanks to goals from Gary Cahill, Ivan Klasnic and Fabrice Muamba in addition to a Danny Gabbidon own goal.
Rangers almost got the ideal start when DJ Campbell found the net inside two minutes, but he was rightly adjudged to be in an offside position. More woe followed for the home side, who had injury-prone midfielder Kieron Dyer stretchered off after five minutes.
The scoreline then reflected Warnock's frustration when Cahill notched a superb opener, sweeping home like a striker on the stroke of half-time. Things only got worse after the break when another new signing, Gabbidon, found his own net before Klasnic and Muamba added the extras. Clint Hill then completed a miserable afternoon by getting sent off for violent conduct.
Fellow Premier League new boys Norwich City were more successful against perennial relegation strugglers Wigan Athletic, claiming a 1-1 draw at the DW Stadium. The Canaries have gone about their work with a quiet confidence during the summer transfer window, and they made a satisfactory start to life at the top table thanks to Wes Hoolahan's equaliser, which cancelled out Ben Watson's opener.
There was nothing to choose between the two sides in the opening 20 minutes, but a poor challenge by Richie de Laet allowed Watson to open his account for the season from 12 yards. However, by half-time an equally foolish moment from Ali Al-Habsi helped Norwich level, the keeper fumbling the ball to Hoolahan to smash the ball into the roof of the net for a point.
Alex McLeish's reign as Aston Villa manager began in unremarkable circumstances after a 0-0 draw with Fulham at Craven Cottage. McLeish arrived at Villa under a resistance-fuelled storm of protests, due to his previous term as manager of local enemies Birmingham, but he instantly brought a bit of defensive stability in a forgettable first game.
In the day's remaining afternoon fixture, Blackburn Rovers slumped to 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers despite taking the lead at Ewood Park. Mauro Formica grabbed his first Rovers goal to break the deadlock after good work by Jason Roberts, but Wolves replied within minutes thanks to Steven Fletcher.
Just seconds after the interval the game was turned on its head as Stephen Ward hammered Wolves ahead, after Paul Robinson had saved Kevin Doyle's soft penalty in the lead-up, and that proved to be the winner.