By Simon Evans
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Title contenders Liverpool could only manage a draw at Fulham on the opening Saturday of the Premier League season while Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur made winning starts to the new campaign.
Liverpool had to come from behind twice to cancel out goals from Fulham’s Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic with new signing Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah on target in the 2-2 draw for Juergen Klopp’s side.
Spurs also went behind, at home to Southampton, but then Antonio Conte’s side cruised to a 4-1 victory over the Saints.
A penalty on the stroke of halftime from Jorginho was enough to give Chelsea a hard-fought 1-0 win at former favourite Frank Lampard’s Everton.
Champions Manchester City start their title defence at West Ham United on Sunday while Dutch manager Erik ten Hag takes charge of Manchester United for the first time against Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford.
Mitrovic scored 43 goals in 44 games as Fulham won promotion from the second-tier Championship last season and continued that form as he put the London side ahead in the 32nd minute.
Kenny Tete’s cross from the right was just what the tall centre forward relishes and he out-muscled Trent Alexander-Arnold at the far post to head home.
Runners-up last term, Liverpool struggled to get a foothold in the game but introduction of Nunez in the second half had the desired impact.
The Uruguayan, bought from Benfica for an initial fee of 75 million euros ($76.36 million) brought the visitors level with a clever flicked finish just after the hour mark.
Despite having barely threatened after the break, Fulham were soon back in front as Mitrovic was ruled to have been tripped in the box by Virgil van Dijk, and the Serb stepped up to stroke home the spot kick to make it 2-1.
If signing Nunez was Liverpool’s highest profile move in the market, the new contract for Salah is arguably their most significant piece of business and the Egyptian showed his value again poking home the equaliser from close range.
Tottenham’s close-season recruitment has boosted hopes in north London that Antonio Conte’s side can get closer to the top two this season and they confirmed that positive perspective with an impressive start.
The hosts fell behind to a James Ward-Prowse volley in the 12th minute but dominated throughout with goals by Ryan Sessegnon, Eric Dier and Dejan Kulusevski sealing the win.
Southampton’s lead lasted only nine minutes before Sessegnon powered a header past Premier League debutant goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu from Kulusevski’s cross.
Dier glanced in Son Heung-min’s cross with a stooping header in the 31st minute to put Tottenham ahead, and the hosts should have been out of sight before the interval.
Mohammed Salisu clumsily turned Emerson Royal’s cross into his own net in the 61st minute, and two minutes later Royal set up the impressive Kulusevski to guide an exquisite finish beyond Bazunu whose saves kept the score respectable.
Chelsea peppered Everton’s goal with 13 corners in the first half but looked set to be frustrated as the interval approached, only for Jorginho to convert from the spot after Ben Chilwell had been fouled to give the visitors the lead.
A brilliant save from Edouard Mendy early in the second half to deny Abdoulaye Doucoure preserved Chelsea’s advantage, and that was as good as it got for a disappointing Everton, who only survived relegation by the skin of their teeth last term.
England forward Raheem Sterling, making his first league appearance for Chelsea after a summer switch from Manchester City, could have marked an impressive debut with a late second but saw his close-range effort deflected just wide.
Nottingham Forest’s return to the top flight after a 23-year absence ended in a 2-0 loss at Newcastle United with Fabian Schar scoring a screamer before Callum Wilson sealed the win.
There was a better start for another promoted side, Bournemouth, who beat Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa 2-0 with goals from Jefferson Lerma and Kieffer Moore.
Leeds United, who battled against relegation last season, had a new look with four debutants and enjoyed a 2-0 win at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
($1 = 0.9822 euros)
(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Christian Radnedge)