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English Premiership

Spurs stroll gets Liverpool back on track

BALOTELLI-SPURSLONDON, August 31- Liverpool reasserted their Premier League title credentials with a breezy 3-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday as Mario Balotelli made his return to English football.

After Raheem Sterling had put Liverpool ahead in the early stages, Steven Gerrard scored a penalty and Alberto Moreno netted his first goal for the club to give Brendan Rodgers victory in his 100th game as manager.

“Overall our quality was exceptional. We got three goals and could have had more,” said Rodgers.

Balotelli started for Liverpool after his £16 million ($26.5 million, 20.1 million euros) move from AC Milan on Monday and he produced an enterprising display before being withdrawn in the 61st minute.

“I thought he was excellent,” Rodgers said of the maverick striker.

“He’s bought straight into our team ethic. He’s trained well and has put all that background noise about him to one side. He’s been brilliant.”

The result saw Liverpool bounce back from a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City in their previous outing and ended Tottenham’s 100 percent start to the campaign under new coach Mauricio Pochettino.

Back in England after a 19-month stint in Milan, former City striker Balotelli almost crowned his return with an early goal, only for Hugo Lloris to parry his header from Daniel Sturridge’s cross.

The 24-year-old Italy striker’s finishing was to prove wayward throughout the afternoon, but it did not prevent his side from taking control of the game.

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– Moreno’s memorable goal –

They made the breakthrough in the eighth minute. Sturridge released Jordan Henderson with a ball down the right flank and the England midfielder played a low cross across the box that Sterling tucked away at the far post.

After Emmanuel Adebayor had lobbed over and Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had parried a fierce drive from Nacer Chadli, Gerrard doubled the visitors’ lead from the spot in the 49th minute after Eric Dier had held back Joe Allen.

Moreno sealed victory on the hour with a memorable first goal for Liverpool, dispossessing Spurs substitute Andros Townsend on halfway and surging into the box before drilling a shot into the bottom-right corner.

“We need to learn and improve,” said Pochettino. “Today was a very tough game for us.”

In the day’s other early game, Aston Villa won 2-1 at home to Hull City to preserve their unbeaten start to the campaign and provisionally climb to third place in the standings.

Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann put the hosts two up at half-time at Villa Park, with Nikica Jelavic replying for previously unbeaten Hull in the 74th minute.

Arsenal visit promoted Leicester City later on Sunday for their first league game since striker Olivier Giroud was ruled out for up to four months with a broken tibia.

Chelsea are guaranteed to go into the international break on top of the table after an engrossing 6-3 win at Everton on Saturday, in which close-season signing Diego Costa scored twice.

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Mame Biram Diouf claimed the only goal as Stoke City pulled off a surprise 1-0 win at Manchester City, while Angel di Maria made his debut for Manchester United in a 0-0 draw at Burnley.

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