Manchester United Opens Title Defense With Win; Chelsea Ties 0-0 at Stoke

Manchester United took an early advantage over Chelsea in the Premier League by opening its title defense with a 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion as the Blues were held 0-0 at Stoke City.

United sealed the victory after 81 minutes yesterday when West Brom defender Steven Reid turned Ashley Young’s cross into his own goal at the Hawthorns. United, Bolton and Wolverhampton Wanderers were the only teams to win their opening matches, all three starting with an away victory.

“We’ve got that never-say-die attitude, we work to the final whistle and we got our rewards in the end,” Young told Sky Sports. “We had to grind it out and that’s what we did.”

United’s victory came at a cost, with center-backs Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic picking up injuries. Full-back Rafael da Silva was already facing about 10 weeks out after dislocating his shoulder in training three days ago.

Wayne Rooney had given United a 13th-minute lead, with Shane Long scoring on his debut for West Brom after 37 minutes.

Tottenham’s game against Everton was postponed because of last week’s rioting in London. Manchester City hosts Swansea City today.

Andre Villas-Boas, Chelsea’s new coach, said he would take positives from the performance at the Britannia Stadium even though he was disappointed not to start his tenure with a win.

“I couldn’t be pleased with a point but it is one of the most difficult grounds to play away from home,” Villas-Boas told reporters. “It is not the greatest start of course but we are happy we raised our game in the second half.”

Early Chances

At West Brom, the visiting team had early chances, with a free kick from Young forcing a save by ex-United goalkeeper Ben Foster, who also had to punch clear after Anderson lifted a ball into the penalty area. At the other end, a Jonas Olsson free kick was cleared by Rooney.

It was Rooney who scored the opener, exchanging passes with Young before making room to shoot and hitting a low effort into the far corner of the net.

David de Gea, signed by United following the retirement of goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, stuck out a hand to push Paul Scharner’s shot wide after 35 minutes to protect the lead.

Two minutes later, de Gea failed to deal with a low effort from Long that went under his body. The Spaniard was criticized after United’s Community Shield win against Manchester City last week for failing to save a long-range shot from Edin Dzeko.

United lost Ferdinand and Vidic to second-half injuries, though kept West Brom out and managed to snatch the win.

Torrid Time

Ferdinand will be out for six weeks with a hamstring injury, manager Alex Ferguson said after the game, adding that Vidic may miss a “couple of weeks.” Rafael had already been ruled out of the first 10 weeks of the season following his training-ground injury.

“We’ve had a torrid two or three days,” Ferguson told Sky Sports. “But with Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones here, it’s a godsend to be honest. I’ve got options.”

The winning goal came after Young collected the ball on the left, cut inside and attempted a cross that deflected off two West Brom players. The final touch came off Reid.

At Stoke, the 33-year-old Villas-Boas, who received a three-year contract in June to replace Carlo Ancelotti, watched his team face sustained pressure in the first half.

Chelsea, second in the league last season, then looked most likely to score after half time. Substitute Nicolas Anelka came closest for the Blues, with his shot tipped onto the bar by Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic late on.

“We played in their half in the second half,” Villas-Boas said. “The game was more in our control but unfortunately we couldn’t find the back of the net.”

Two days ago, Arsenal was held to a 0-0 tie at Newcastle, Liverpool drew 1-1 at home to Sunderland, Bolton defeated Queens Park Rangers 4-0, and Wolves beat Blackburn 2-1. There were no goals in the Fulham-Aston Villa match, while Wigan and Norwich tied 1-1.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Cone in London at jcone@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net.

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