LONDON, England, August 19 – Manchester City picked up where they left off last season as the champions started their Premier League title defence by coming from behind to beat Southampton 3-2 on Sunday, while Eden Hazard stole the show on his debut in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at Wigan.
City were back in action at Eastlands for the first time since they clinched the club’s first English title for 44 years with a sensational 3-2 victory over QPR on the final day of last season.
Roberto Mancini’s side had trailed 2-1 before scoring twice in stoppage-time that day to pip Manchester United on goal difference and they had to recover from the same deficit to see off newly-promoted Southampton in another enthralling encounter.
Sergio Aguero had scored the winner against QPR, but memories of that glorious moment quickly faded when the Argentine striker was stretchered off within the first 15 minutes following a challenge from Southampton’s debutant defender Nathaniel Clyne.
To make matters worse for City, they squandered a chance to take the lead in the 19th minute when David Silva’s tame penalty was easily saved by Kelvin Davis after Carlos Tevez was tripped by Jos Hooiveld.
Argentina striker Tevez did open the scoring in the 40th minute, firing past Davis at his near-post despite Southampton’s appeals for offside.
However, Saints striker Rickie Lambert, surprisingly left on the bench after a prolific role in helping Southampton end their seven-year exile from the top flight, came on to curl in the equaliser in the 59th minute.
Southampton were on course for a stunning win when former Rangers midfielder Steven Davis marked his debut by slotting home in the 68th minute after Jack Rodwell’s misplaced pass put City in trouble.
But Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko equalised four minutes later and French midfielder Samir Nasri completed City’s latest escape act with a fine finish after a poor header from Saints defender Danny Fox in the 80th minute.
Earlier on Sunday, Hazard enjoyed a dream debut for Chelsea as the Belgium forward set up both his side’s goals for Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard within the opening seven minutes at the DW Stadium.
The 21-year-old’s dynamic display bodes well for Blues boss Roberto Di Matteo as he tries to overhaul his team’s style of play.
After powerful targetman Didier Drogba moved to Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua at the end of last season, Di Matteo plans to implement a more subtle gameplan that relies on the skills of Hazard and Brazil’s Oscar, who made his debut as a 63rd minute substitute for the Belgian.
On this evidence both should prove good additions for the European champions, but it was Hazard who stole the show.
“Eden Hazard showed all his qualities today and it was a pleasure to watch him,” Di Matteo said.
“It was a great start to score two goals quickly and we controlled the game nicely.”
Lampard added: “He (Hazard) showed glimpses of that in pre-season for us and it’s great to have a player like that in the team.”
Hazard, who arrived from Lille in June with a hefty £32 million price tag and a reputation as one of Europe’s most astute young playmakers, took less than two minutes to underline his vast potential.
He laid on Chelsea’s opening goal with a clever turn and defence-splitting pass to Ivanovic, who rumbled into the penalty area before slotting a low shot past Ali Al Habsi.
Just four minutes later, Hazard tricked his way into space in the penalty area and provoked a despairing challenge from Wigan debutant Ivan Ramis, who conceded a penalty which Lampard drilled under Al Habsi to seal Chelsea’s first win of the season.