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Blackpool Marks Premier League Debut by Routing Wigan

Marlon Harewood scored two goals as Blackpool marked a “dream” debut in English soccer’s Premier League with a 4-0 win at Wigan.

Gary Taylor-Fletcher and Alex Baptiste also scored for Blackpool, which last appeared in England’s top division in 1971.

“I don’t think any of us, in our wildest, wildest dreams thought we could do that,” Blackpool manager Ian Holloway told Sky Sports. “I’m so proud of the lads.”

Didier Drogba scored a hat trick as Chelsea opened its title defense with a 6-0 win over promoted West Bromwich. Drogba led the Premier League with 29 goals last season.

Aston Villa beat West Ham 3-0 to give Kevin MacDonald a victory in his first game as interim manager, Wolverhampton defeated Stoke 2-1 and Blackburn beat Everton 1-0.

Birmingham rallied to tie at 10-man Sunderland 2-2, while the Tottenham-Manchester City and Bolton-Fulham matches ended goalless. Liverpool hosts Arsenal tomorrow and Manchester United starts its campaign on Aug. 16 against promoted Newcastle.

Blackpool earned promotion to the Premier League by winning the Championship playoffs last season. Today’s game was switched to Wigan’s DW Stadium to allow the Seasiders time to complete renovations at their Bloomfield Road stadium.

Harewood, who was among four new signings three days ago, scored twice in five minutes late in the first half after Taylor-Fletcher gave Blackpool the lead. Baptiste then completed the rout with a goal in the 75th minute.

Nine Straight

Florent Malouda added two goals and Frank Lampard had one at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea won its ninth consecutive season opener. The Blues had lost their final three preseason games and the Community Shield against Manchester United last weekend.

Goalkeeper Joe Hart was the star as Manchester City ended a six-match losing streak at Tottenham. Hart made key saves after being named the starter over Shay Given by manager Roberto Mancini last night.

“I was prepared like I was playing in the World Cup,” Hart said in an interview with Sky Sports. “Shay Given is the other goalkeeper and I’m sure he’ll get his chances. We’ll be pushing each other.”

Stewart Downing, Stiliyan Petrov and James Milner had the goals as Aston Villa routed West Ham. MacDonald was named manager when Martin O’Neill quit five days ago.

Scott Dann and Liam Ridgewell scored in the final 13 minutes to give Birmingham a comeback tie at Sunderland, which had Lee Cattermole red-carded just before halftime for a second yellow card.

David Jones and Steven Fletcher scored two minutes apart in the first half in Wolverhampton’s win, while Nikola Kalinic’s goal lifted Blackburn past Everton. Fulham gave new manager Mark Hughes a point in his first game with its draw at Bolton.

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