LONDON: Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea homecoming party turned sour as a 1-0 defeat at Everton Saturday condemned them to their worst start to a Premier League season during the big-spending era of owner Roman Abramovich.
Steven Naismith celebrated his 27th birthday by heading the winner in first-half injury time before the hosts clung on to secure manager Roberto Martinez’s first victory and inflict Chelsea’s maiden defeat of the campaign.
On a day of debuts, Mesut Ozil gave Arsenal fans a glimpse of his creative talents in a comfortable 3-1 win at Sunderland and Chelsea handed a first start to Samuel Eto’o, but the Cameroonian fluffed a host of chances.
It was a similar story for Manchester City, whose costly attacking recruits misfired in a goalless draw at Stoke City.
Champions Manchester United labored to a 2-0 win over 10-man Crystal Palace at Old Trafford and Tottenham Hotspur’s Gylfi Sigurdsson netted twice as they beat Norwich City by the same scoreline.
Newcastle United’s mercurial talent Hatem Ben Arfa grabbed one goal and created another in a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa. Hull City against Cardiff City and Fulham against West Bromwich Albion both ended 1-1.
Arsenal top the table with nine points, ahead of Tottenham and Liverpool, who play Swansea City Monday, on goals scored. Manchester City, United and Chelsea are fourth, fifth and sixth respectively on seven points.
It is Chelsea’s worst opening to the season since Abramovich assumed control of the club in 2003 and since they took six points from their opening four matches in 2002-03.
Mourinho began his first spell in West London in 2004 with four consecutive wins, so will not relish seeing points go begging as easily as chances did at Everton.
Eto’o had been drafted in from Anzhi Makhachkala as a trusted frontman, having helped the Portuguese cement his reputation as one of the world’s best coaches at Inter Milan with Champions League success in 2010.
Mourinho may have expected more, however, from the man he chose to be his attacking spearhead.
Eto’o wasted three good chances on a profligate evening for both him and Chelsea, who were undone when Naismith headed in from close range.
“Yes, he needs matches,” Mourinho said of Eto’o on Sky Sports. “But it is not just him, [Andre] Schuerrle missed three big chances to score, Samuel was the same, other players had chances.”
Manchester City handed a debut to close-season signing Stevan Jovetic and paired him in attack with another big-money arrival, Alvaro Negredo, but they were frustrated at Stoke.
Arsenal’s recent recruit fared much better. Ozil arrived on transfer deadline day for 42.5 million pounds ($66.6m) from Real Madrid with a reputation for unpicking defenses and represented a bold move for the north London club’s naturally cautious manager, Arsene Wenger.
He made his mark after just 11 minutes, killing a long ball forward with a wonderful touch before squaring for Olivier Giroud, who netted with a composed finish for his fourth of the season.
Arsenal were pegged back when Craig Gardner scored from the penalty spot three minutes into the second half, but the visitors’ jitters were swept away as Aaron Ramsey scored twice to continue his excellent early season form.
“Considering that he was sick and did not practice yesterday, his first half was outstanding, in the second half his level dropped a bit, but overall he was great,” Wenger said on Sky Sports about his record signing.
Another playmaker who made a splash was Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen, who also marked his debut with an assist, setting up Sigurdsson’s opener at White Hart Lane.
Iceland international Sigurdsson, who was in and out of the team last season after arriving with a lofty reputation after a spell at Swansea City, added a second from a Paulinho cross.
Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney scored to lift Manchester United to a patchy home win over Crystal Palace, but it was a workmanlike display that will have done little to worry their title rivals.
Referee Jon Moss was the focus of attention at Old Trafford after he awarded a controversial penalty from which van Persie fired United in front.
He sent off Palace defender Kagisho Dikgacoi for bringing down Ashley Young on the stroke of halftime, but replays showed the initial contact had been outside the area.
New signing Marouane Fellaini started on the bench but joined the fray in the second half and Rooney curled in a late free kick to make the game safe.
Christian Benteke scored his fourth league goal of the season for Villa, but it was Ben Arfa who took the plaudits.
The Frenchman slotted home from close range to give Newcastle the lead at Villa Park and then created the winner when his shot from distance was parried by keeper Brad Guzan and Yoan Gouffran gobbled up the rebound.