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Aug 18, 2012

Nightmare start for Reds, Swans soar top

Brendan Rodgers made a dreadful start to his Liverpool league career with a 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion, while Arsenal's attack looked blunted in the absence of Robin van Persie as they were held 0-0 by Sunderland.

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Elsewhere, there was a two-goal debut for Michu as Swansea thrashed QPR 5-0, while Mladen Petric also netted a brace as Fulham crushed Norwich by the same scoreline.

Steve Clarke punished former club Liverpool, who were reduced to ten men, at the Hawthorns in his first fixture as manager of West Brom, masterminding a 3-0 victory.

The Reds, who gave starts to Joe Allen and Fabio Borini, fell behind to Zoltan Gera's first goal of his second spell at the Baggies: a long-range effort that arrowed into the top corner, with Pepe Reina helpless. Rodgers' men were then handed a reprieve when Shane Long missed a second-half penalty after Daniel Agger, who has been linked with Manchester City, was sent off for the first time in his Liverpool career.

However, Peter Odemwingie did hit the back of the net from the spot a few minutes later, before on-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku completed the scoring having been left unmarked in the box.

New recruits Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud were unable to inspire Arsenal to victory at home to Sunderland as Arsene Wenger's side were held to a 0-0 draw in their first outing since Robin van Persie's move to Manchester United.

The Gunners, who had Barcelona target Alex Song absent from the matchday squad, made a nervy start to the game and should have been punished inside the first ten minutes - only for James McClean to fire straight at Wojciech Szczesny when in space in the area. However, the hosts grew into the contest, and Cazorla twice went close as they ended the half the stronger.

Arsenal had all the possession in the second period without finding a cutting edge, and when Giroud missed a sitter in the final minutes having been set through by a fine reverse pass from Cazorla it was clear it would not be the home side's day.

Hatem Ben Arfa stroked home a late winner from the penalty spot as Alan Pardew's Newcastle rode their luck to get their new Premier League campaign off to a flying start with a 2-1 victory over Tottenham.

The Frenchman sent Brad Friedel the wrong way in the 80th minute having been hauled down by Rafael van der Vaart, restoring the Magpies' slender advantage after Spurs had pulled back to level four minutes earlier.

A low-key encounter had sprung into life in the 55th minute when Demba Ba fired his first goal since February to put the home side ahead before Jermain Defoe prodded a 76th minute equaliser at the second attempt.The late drama proved too much for Pardew, who was sent to the stands by referee Martin Atkinson for a furious response to a touchline incident shortly before Andre Villas-Boas' men had snatched their leveller.

Michael Laudrup's managerial bow in the Premier League was a huge success as Swansea dealt out a 5-0 hammering to QPR at Loftus Road.

The first goal of the Premier League season was netted by Michu, the visitors' £2 million summer arrival from Rayo Vallecano, whose 20-yard drive crept under Rob Green's body. That was the only Swansea highlight of a half in which they were clinging to their lead, as the Rs somehow contrived to not find an equaliser despite a host of opportunities.

The Swans' second, again scored by Michu following a fine finish, also came against the run of play - but after that, they were able to pick off QPR with embarrassing ease. Nathan Dyer added two more, with Mark Hughes' side looking all over the place defensively, and Scott Sinclair made it five.

Norwich boss Chris Hughton was given a sobering reminder of the relegation fight he could face as Fulham ran out 5-0 winners at Craven Cottage. Damien Duff opened the scoring, before Petric added goals two and three - the latter a 25-yarder which flew in with the aid of a deflection from Michael Turner. Alexander Kacaniklic piled more misery on Hughton, while Steve Sidwell made it five from the spot.

Kevin Nolan's strike ensured West Ham made a victorious return to the Premier League, beating Aston Villa 1-0 at Upton Park. There was some controversy over the goal, with a delay before it was awarded as referee Mike Dean talked to his assistant over whether Ricardo Vaz Te was offside in the build-up.

An 89th-minute Adam Le Fondre penalty earned Reading a 1-1 draw with Stoke, whose opener was scored by Michael Kightly, and who had Dean Whitehead sent off for two bookable offences.

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