The first major upset of the English Premier League season saw West Ham beat Arsenal for the first time in eight years with a 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium Sunday.
The EPL is renowned for its competitive matches but few would have foreseen an opening fixture reverse for Arsene Wenger’s team after its FA Community Shield win over Chelsea last weekend.
Former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech had an EPL debut to forget for the Gunners, making errors for both the West Ham goals.
First, he made an ill-judged challenge to concede a free kick as Dimitri Payet found Cheikhou Kouyate for the opener for the visitors on 43 minutes.
The second on the hour mark saw the Czech international beaten at his near post by Mauro Zarate.
Wenger sent on Theo Walcott and Chile’s Alexis Sanchez as late substitutes, but Arsenal was unable to break down a stubborn West Ham defense.
The closest it had come to scoring was a first half deflected effort from Aaron Ramsey, which hit the crossbar.
It was a famous victory for West Ham’s new manager Slaven Bilic and 16-year-old midfielder Reece Oxford, who showed composure beyond his teenage years until substituted late on.
West Ham had suffered an ignominious Europa League defeat to Romanian side Astra Giurgiu in midweek, but rose to the occasion against a team many are tipping to win the title.
Wenger said the defeat was typical of the nature of the English top-flight and believes his side will bounce back quickly.
“You are never surprised in the Premier League. It is better if we don’t talk too much and continue to work hard,” he told Sky Sports.
“The players were maybe too nervous and put too much pressure on themselves.
“Today we have been hurt mentally and it is a good opportunity to respond,” he added.
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Bilic could not have been more pleased with the outcome. “It’s great start for us against a team that are title contenders.
“This is very special. I’m very proud of the second half performance.”
Sunday’s other early kick off in the EPL saw an entertaining 2-2 draw for Newcastle at home to Southampton.
Newcastle looked set to give new manager Steve McClaren a winning start after goals from Dutch midfielder Giorginio Wijnaldum and Papiss Cisse had given it a 2-1 lead following Graziano Pelle opener for the Saints.
But Saints substitute Shane Long headed in a 79th-minute equalizer to spoil McClaren’s afternoon.
Later Sunday, Liverpool made a fine start to its campaign with a 1-0 win at Stoke, revenge for a 6-1 drubbing at the Britannia Stadium at the back end of last season.
The game looked to be heading for a goalless draw until Brazil midfielder Philippe Coutinho curled home a stunning 30-meter strike into the top corner of the Stoke net.
Manchester City travels to West Bromwich Albion Monday evening to complete the first round of EPL action.