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Man United opens EPL title defense in style

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) - Two spectacular goals from Robin van Persie helped Manchester United begin its Premier League title defense with a 4-1 win at Swansea, while the alarm bells are ringing at his former club Arsenal just one game into the new season.

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David Moyes' first league match in charge of United couldn't have gone any better, with Van Persie matching Danny Welbeck's brace with two brilliant goals of his own to signal his intent on finishing top scorer in England for a third straight season.

There is already an air of discontent at Arsenal, however, after a 3-1 home loss to Aston Villa, which ended with fans booing the team off and voicing their anger at manager Arsene Wenger's failure to strengthen his threadbare squad in the close season.

Christian Benteke scored twice for Villa, with Laurent Koscielny's second-half sending-off after two yellow cards compounding Arsenal's misery.

Liverpool relied on Daniel Sturridge's first-half goal and a late penalty save by debutant Simon Mignolet to clinch a 1-0 victory against Stoke, while West Ham, Southampton and Fulham also opened an eagerly anticipated campaign with wins. Norwich drew 2-2 with Everton.

After securing his first piece of silverware at United by winning the Community Shield last weekend, Moyes now has a maiden league victory to savor. Suddenly, the pressure of filling the boots of predecessor Alex Ferguson, who won 38 major titles in nearly 27 years at Old Trafford before retiring in May, doesn't feel so heavy.

``It's one game in 38 and, from that point of view, it's just the start for me,'' Moyes said.

It helps having someone like Van Persie on your team.

The Netherlands striker was the main reason why United was able to reclaim the league title from Manchester City last season and he has picked up where he left off, putting United ahead with an acrobatic volley in the 34th minute and then virtually sealing victory in the 72nd by smashing a 20-yarder into the top corner.

With Welbeck also weighing in with two goals - the second a deft chip in injury time - it justified Moyes' decision to leave unsettled striker Wayne Rooney on the bench until the 61st minute. Rooney, who has been pushing for a move away from United, received a generous welcome by the travelling support when he entered and set up Welbeck's second goal in a sharp cameo.

Wilfried Bony's debut goal for Swansea made it 3-1 but Swansea faded after a bright start, with its defense unable to cope with the movement of Van Persie and Welbeck.

As with United, it's a case of new season, same old story for Arsenal.

Wenger's team is unlikely to be challenging for the title this season unless the club, which is awash with cash, can recruit some marquee names to add to a squad that the French manager acknowledged on Friday was light on numbers. Wenger was hit with chants including ``You don't know what you're doing'' and ``Spend some (expletive) money'' minutes as the final whistle approached against Villa.

``My job is to make the fans happy, but we haven't lost a game because of that (not spending),'' Wenger said. ``We are ready to spend, but until we buy players we have to win football games and it is not an excuse not to win the game today.''

Olivier Giroud gave Arsenal the lead in the sixth minute but Benteke, who put in and then withdrew a transfer request over the summer, equalized in the 22nd when he headed home a rebound after his penalty was saved by goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

The Belgium striker then converted a 66th-minute penalty following Koscielny's clumsy foul on Gabriel Agbonlahor, earning the defender a first yellow card, and debutant Antonio Luna sealed the points in the 85th for Villa by racing clear on the break to score in the bottom corner.

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Carlos Vela scored one goal and set up another Saturday as Real Sociedad picked up where it left off last season by outclassing Getafe 2-0 with its exquisite flowing attack to inaugurate the Spanish league at Anoeta Stadium.

The Mexico forward netted the first goal of the 2013-14 season from a pass by Gonzalo ``Chori'' Castro in the 42nd, and then assisted Haris Seferovic for the new signing to get a deserved goal in the 70th.

Sociedad showed no signs of the transition from former manager Philippe Montanier to promoted assistant Jagoba Arrasate as it maintained its passing style that last season earned it a playoff for the Champions League group phase beginning Tuesday at Lyon.

Later, Athletic Bilbao visits Valladolid before Valencia hosts Malaga.

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BERLIN (AP) - Mario Mandzukic's first-half strike was enough for Bayern Munich to grind out a 1-0 win at Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga on Saturday.

Mandzukic scored in the 13th minute with a fine volley from Thomas Mueller's cross.

The home side was left to rue a disallowed goal from Alexander Meier before the break, with TV replays showing offside was the wrong call, though the Frankfurt midfielder may have touched the ball with his hand as he headed in Johannes Flum's goalward effort.

Hoffenheim routed Hamburger SV 5-1 in Hamburg, Wolfsburg beat Schalke 4-0, Leverkusen won 1-0 at Stuttgart, Werder Bremen beat Augsburg 1-0, and Mainz won 2-1 at Freiburg.

Borussia Moenchengladbach was to host Hannover later Saturday.

While Bayern equaled its club record of 27 consecutive Bundesliga games without defeat set in 1989, Pep Guardiola's side was fortunate to emerge with the win.

Bastian Schweinsteiger did have the chance to seal it in the 89th, but was denied by Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.

Then Srdjan Lakic rounded Manuel Neuer at the other end, only for Dante to clear off the line.

Meier appeared to be hindered in the area by Jerome Boateng and Dante in injury time, but referee Peter Gagelmann waved away Frankfurt's penalty claims.

Bayern was more in control in the first half, when Mandzukic ensured the club scored for the 39th Bundesliga game in succession.

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PARIS (AP) - Marseille eased to a 2-0 win at home to Evian on Saturday as it continued its perfect start in the French league.

Last year's runner-up took the lead in the 16th minute, when Rod Fanni lifted the ball over the defense to Andre-Pierre Gignac, who feinted past Jonathan Mensah and rifled a shot into the back of the net from the edge of the penalty area.

Marseille had several chances to double its advantage and eventually did so in the 66th minute. Dimitri Payet, who was signed from Ligue 1 rival Lille in the offseason, controlled Mathieu Valbuena's pass and did well to round Mensah before drilling the ball into the bottom left corner for his third goal in two matches.

Marseille has six points from its opening two matches. Evian has one.

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GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) - Celtic made it two wins from two games in its defense of the Scottish Premiership title by beating 10-man Aberdeen 2-0 on Saturday thanks to goals from Kris Commons and substitute James Forrest.

Inverness stayed top of the table, though, after easing past Motherwell 2-0 for a third straight win of the campaign.

Commons put Celtic ahead in the 45th minute at Pittodrie by converting a penalty after Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield was red-carded for bringing down Georgios Samaras inside the area.

Forrest added the second in the 87th when he received the ball from Joe Ledley and took a shot that deflected in off Mark Reynolds.

Celtic has played a game fewer than most of its rivals in the league because of its involvement in Champions League qualifying, meaning Neil Lennon's side sits in third place at this early stage.

St. Johnstone is a point ahead in second after a 4-0 home win over Ross County.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

  
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