Champion Manchester City Recovers to Avoid Upset by Southampton

Manchester City rallied to beat Southampton 3-2 as it started its defense of the Premier League soccer title, denying the newly promoted Saints an upset. Chelsea defeated Wigan 2-0.

City, which in May ended a 44-year wait for the title, trailed with 22 minutes remaining at its Etihad Stadium yesterday before goals from Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri. Carlos Tevez also scored for the champion, with Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis getting Southampton’s goals.

“It’s important we won this game, because the first day is always difficult,” City manager Roberto Mancini told Sky Sports. “It is important we have character.”

Champions League winner Chelsea, aiming to improve on a sixth-place finish in the domestic league last season, won on goals from Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard. The Blues haven’t lost their opening league match since 1998.

City had an early blow in its match as Sergio Aguero suffered an injury that saw him leave the field on a stretcher. The Argentine striker will require a scan on his knee, Mancini said.

The home team had an opportunity to take a lead on 16 minutes when it was awarded a penalty for a trip by Josh Hooiveld on Tevez. David Silva’s effort had little power and was easily stopped by Kelvin Davis.

Tevez Goal

City had few other chances before Tevez scored after 40 minutes with a low shot.

A period of pressure on the Saints defense followed, but there were no further goals before halftime.

There were several opportunities for City early in the second half too, with Dzeko and Silva among those unable to convert them. Soon the champion was trailing the Saints.

Lambert, scorer of 27 goals in the second-tier Championship last season, was introduced as a substitute and took about four minutes to get his first Premier League strike. He collected a loose ball near the edge of the area and fired a shot into the bottom corner of the net on 59 minutes.

An underhit pass from City’s Jack Rodwell allowed the Saints to break forward in the 68th minute. Midfielder Davis, on the field for two minutes, finished off the move to give his team a surprise lead.

City was back level five minutes later through Dzeko, with Nasri completing the turnaround after 80 minutes.

“Our defenders have just played against the best forward line they’ve ever played in their lives and I think manfully they’ve put a good performance in today,” Southampton manager Nigel Adkins told Sky Sports.

Early Lead

At the DW Stadium, it took Chelsea less than two minutes to take a lead. New signing Eden Hazard slid through a pass for fullback Ivanovic, who advanced into the penalty area before shooting past Ali Al-Habsi.

The advantage was doubled on seven minutes with a penalty after defender Ivan Ramis, making his Wigan debut, fouled Hazard. Lampard stepped up to fire a low shot under Al-Habsi.

Franco di Santo headed over for Wigan on 21 minutes, then Victor Moses, a target for Chelsea according to U.K. newspapers, tested Petr Cech with a powerful shot after 38 minutes.

Fernando Torres almost added a third goal for the Blues in the 63rd minute, stabbing the ball past the goalkeeper even as he was off balance. Ramis got back to clear off the line.

Wigan Chances

The hosts had further chances to get back into the match. Jordi Gomez missed with a close-range header from a Maynor Figueroa cross, then substitute Arouna Kone headed wide from a corner. Gomez also had an overhead shot that missed the target.

“I’m very pleased with the performance and the result,” Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo told reporters. “It’s always tricky the first game of the season.”

Two days ago, Swansea won 5-0 at Queens Park Rangers, Fulham beat Norwich by the same score, and West Bromwich Albion defeated Liverpool 3-0.

West Ham celebrated its return to the Premier League with a 1-0 victory over Aston Villa, Newcastle beat Tottenham 2-1, Reading and Stoke tied 1-1, and the match between Arsenal and Sunderland was scoreless.

Manchester United is at Everton today.

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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