Liverpool, Arsenal claim narrow derby wins
MANCHESTER, England (AP) - Liverpool and Arsenal relied on goals from their in-form strikers to secure 1-0 home wins over their biggest rivals on Sunday, handing Manchester United and Tottenham their first defeats of the Premier League season.
England international Daniel Sturridge flicked home a fourth-minute header from close range on his 24th birthday in Liverpool's gritty victory over United at Anfield, putting his team top of the standings on a maximum nine points.
France striker Olivier Giroud also grabbed his third goal in as many games, settling the north London derby at Emirates Stadium against a Tottenham side that has spent more than 100 million pounds this summer but still hasn't scored in open play.
Swansea claimed its first points of the campaign in Sunday's other game, beating West Bromwich Albion 2-0 thanks to goals by Ben Davies and Pablo Hernandez.
The English league may be only three weeks old, but it is still strange to see United not in the division's top four.
After drawing 0-0 with Chelsea on Monday and then losing to Liverpool, the reigning champions have four points from a possible nine under new manager David Moyes. Failing to score in two straight games is unusual for United, and it didn't help that Wayne Rooney was unavailable on Sunday after cutting his forehead in an accidental training-ground collision with a teammate.
United's scoring woes prompted one of the club's most famous fans, Usain Bolt, to post a short video on social networking sight Instagram, imploring Moyes to sign "a creative midfielder, one that can pass and create opportunities, right now.''
It's all positives at Liverpool, though.
For the first time since the 1993-94 season, the team has won its first three league matches - all of them 1-0 and all of them secured by Sturridge. He is proving a more-than able fill-in for Luis Suarez, who remains out of action through suspension for biting an opponent last season.
Sturridge played through the pain barrier against United after injuring his thigh in a midweek League Cup win over Notts County, but showed great movement to lose his markers at a corner and flick a header into the net from close range after Daniel Agger met Steven Gerrard's outswinging corner.
"He was nowhere near fit today,'' Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said of Sturridge. "But even at 70 percent, he'll be as good, if not better, than a lot of Premier League strikers.''
Liverpool's defense held firm in a second half that United dominated possession-wise but in which it failed to seriously test goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who kept a third straight clean sheet.
Like Sturridge, Giroud has started the season in impressive style, scoring in four of Arsenal's five matches in all competitions and in all three league games.
His winner against Tottenham came in the 23rd minute, meeting Theo Walcott's low cross with a glancing finish in at the near post.
"Everybody knows it's a big game for us and the fans are really excited about this time of the year as well,'' Giroud said. "We wanted to keep it up after our three wins (over Fulham in the league and then two over Fenerbahce in the Champions League playoffs) ... We never gave up and we showed a real togetherness.''
On the day that Gareth Bale's move to Real Madrid was finally completed, Tottenham's performance showed that the players recruited with the money from the Welshman's transfer still need time to bed in. Penalties from Roberto Soldado in 1-0 wins over Crystal Palace and Swansea in their opening two games remain their only goals this campaign.
Erik Lamela, signed from Roma this week, came on as a second-half substitute but another summer signing - France midfielder Etienne Capoue - had left the field by then after twisting his left fibula.
Arsenal joined Tottenham on six points and is fourth in the fledgling table, behind Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City.