Champions Manchester City delivered an emphatic statement of intent with a 5-0 thrashing of West Ham United as they began their bid for a hat-trick of Premier League title on Saturday.
Raheem Sterling’s hat-trick fired City to a crushing victory as they more than matched title rivals Liverpool’s 4-1 hammering of Norwich City on Friday.
Tottenham Hotspur, the only side to keep pace with City and Liverpool last season before falling away and finishing a distant fourth, began their campaign with a 3-1 home victory over Aston Villa — Harry Kane scoring two late goals.
There were also impressive wins for Burnley and Brighton & Hove Albion on the opening Saturday of the season while Sheffield United marked their return to the Premier League by picking up a point at Bournemouth.
Champions League winners Liverpool, who finished one point behind City in an epic title race last season, lit the touchpaper at Anfield but Pep Guardiola’s City, as they seemingly always manage to do, stole the limelight.
European champions Liverpool made an emphatic start to the new Premier League season by scoring three times in the opening half an hour as they taught promoted Norwich City a harsh lesson with a 4-1 thrashing at Anfield on Friday.
Juergen Klopp’s side, runners-up to Manchester City last season, swept aside fellow German Daniel Farke’s team with their trademark attacking verve, taking a 3-0 lead inside 28 minutes.
The unfortunate Grant Hanley scored an own goal before Mo Salah, Virgil van Dijk and Divock Origi netted before halftime, with Norwich scoring through Teemu Pukki just after the hour.
The one setback for Klopp on an encouraging night came with an injury to Brazilian keeper Alisson Becker who was taken off in the 39th after suffering a calf injury and will now miss Wednesdy’s UEFA Super Cup clash with Chelsea.
Becker’s misfortune handed an unexpectedly early debut to 32-year-old Spanish keeper Adrian, who had been, prudently, signed as cover on a free transfer just four days previously after being released by West Ham United.
“There’s actually nothing bad to say about the game apart from Ali’s injury,” said Klopp.
“For 60 minutes we looked very sharp, then we have to control the game a bit more. Norwich have all my respect. they stayed cheeky, they enjoyed their football,” he added.
The result was no surprise but the way Liverpool so quickly hit their stride was impressive and sent a message to Pep Guardiola’s City that they face another battle this season.
Liverpool’s achievement in winning their sixth European Cup by beating Tottenham Hotspur in May’s Champions League final in Madrid, was celebrated in song and with choreographed displays by their supporters before the game.
For one of the unlikely heroes of that campaign, Belgian forward Origi, there was the reward of a starting place ahead of Sadio Mane, while Joe Gomez was preferred to Joel Matip alongside Van Dijk at the back.
It took just seven minutes for Liverpool to open their account as Norwich captain Hanley, attempting to clear a low cross from the left by Origi, sliced the ball into his own goal.
Salah, joint league top scorer last season on 22 goals along with Mane and Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, then doubled the lead in the 19th with a characteristic left-foot finish from a tight angle after a nice set-up from Roberto Firmino.
The game was virtually over in the 28th minute when Norwich made it far too easy for Van Dijk to nod home a Salah corner to make it 3-0 and it could have been four just minutes later but Norwich keeper Tim Krul did well to keep out a Firmino volley.
Liverpool suffered a blow when Becker went off just before halftime but Origi made it 4-0 three minutes before the break with a well-placed header from a right-wing Trent Alexander-Arnold cross.
After the break Jordan Henderson had a shot pushed on to the bar by Krul after nice work from Origi and Firmino somehow put the ball wide from close range as Liverpool threatened to add more misery to Norwich’s return to the top flight.
The East Anglians got a reward for their efforts when, moments after substitute Moritz Leitner struck the bar, their Finnish striker Pukki got a goal back in the 64th with a smart finish after being found by a clever Emiliano Buendia pass.
Norwich’s German boss Farke took encouragement from the way his team stuck at their task after the break and this fixture was always going to be a tough assignment after a three-season absence from the Premier League.
“We were greedy, we wanted to be the first team in two-and-a-half years to win here,” said Farke. “But I’m totally in love with this team. The mentality to win the second half in front of an excited home crowd, we showed great character.”
Brazilian Gabriel Jesus, preferred to Sergio Aguero in attack, opened the scoring in the 25th minute and Sterling made it 2-0 six minutes after the interval with a cool finish after being put through by Kevin De Bruyne.
Jesus became the first player to have a goal disallowed by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the Premier League when, in the 53rd minute, he finished off Sterling’s pass following a fine move. However, the VAR adjudged Sterling had been offside.
VAR, making its Premier League debut this season, was used again to review and validate Sterling’s second and the video staff were busy again in the 84th minute when Aguero’s soft penalty was saved but VAR ruled that Declan Rice was encroaching into the box and referee Mike Dean ordered a re-take.
The Argentine scored before Sterling completed his hat-trick in stoppage time — the first player to do so on the opening weekend of the Premier League since Didier Drogba in 2010.
City have now won 15 Premier League games in a row.
“I cannot deny it, I’m delighted to win 5-0 away from home in the first game,” said Guardiola, who felt his side had been sloppy in the first half at the London Stadium.
“The rhythm was not there but that’s normal for the first game. In the second half we were better, we were more calm, we played extra passes. After we went 3-0 up the game was over.”
Tottenham were playing at home on the opening weekend for the first time in eight seasons but Villa, back in the top flight after a three-season absence, led through John McGinn’s ninth-minute strike and hung on grimly.
Debutant Tanguy Ndombele, Tottenham’s record signing, struck a 73rd minute equalise though and Kane punished a tiring Villa side with two clinical strikes.
That condemned Villa captain Jack Grealish to his 19th Premier League defeat in a row, the longest losing run of any player in the competition’s history.
Brighton made an excellent start under new boss Graham Potter with a surprise 3-0 win at Watford — thanks to an own goal from Abdoulaye Doucoure and second-half strikes by forwards Florin Andone and Neal Maupay.Ashley Barnes struck twice as Sean Dyche’s Burnley beat Southampton 3-0 in a meeting of two of last season’s strugglers at a wet and windswept Turf Moor.
Icelandic winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson added the third on a disappointing day for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.
Local boy Billy Sharp came off the bench for Sheffield United to earn a share of the spoils in their first Premier League game since 2007 as they drew 1-1 t Bournemouth. Defender Chris Mepham had put the Cherries ahead in the 62nd minute.
Everton’s investments have raised hopes of a top-six challenge but they had to settle for a point at Crystal Palace after missing a series of chances in a 0-0 draw.