LONDON: New Chelsea winger Eden Hazard, widely hailed as the next big thing, lived up to all the hype inside the first seven minutes of his Premier League debut after setting up both goals in a 2-0 win at Wigan Athletic on Sunday.
The Belgian, who joined the European Cup winners from Lille in the close season having turned down champions Manchester City and Manchester United, quickly silenced doubters who suspected England would be far tougher than the modest French league.
First he expertly turned marker Ivan Ramis to release right back Branislav Ivanovic, who ran in and coolly slotted home in the second minute having been allowed to play despite a red card in the 3-2 Community Shield loss to City last Sunday. Hazard then danced his way into the box and was carelessly upended by error-prone Wigan debutant Ramis, leaving Frank Lampard to slam in the seventh-minute penalty.
Roberto Di Matteo’s side, only sixth in the Premier League last term despite their Champions League triumph, then strolled through the rest of their season opener as Wigan and Chelsea target Victor Moses barely troubled goalkeeper Petr Cech.
On Saturday, Hatem Ben Arfa gave Newcastle a winning start, clinching a 2-1 in over Tottenham after manager Alan Pardew had been sent off for pushing a match official.
Ben Arfa scored from the penalty spot in the 80th minute after being tripped by Rafael van der Vaart, four minutes after Jermain Defoe appeared to have salvaged a point for Tottenham. Just before Tottenham’s leveller — with Newcastle leading through Demba Ba’s goal — Pardew was sent to the stands by referee Martin Atkinson for a furious response to a touchline incident.
Pardew could be facing a Football Association misconduct charge despite his contrition. At least his players delivered on the pitch. But it was a miserable day all round for Tottenham counterpart Andre Villas-Boas in his first competitive match since replacing Harry Redknapp, who was fired despite the team finishing fourth in May, one place above Newcastle.
“We deserved more, played well, had the chances in the first half and pushed in the second,” said Villas-Boas, who was fired by Chelsea in March. “We deserved something extra for the effort we did and the game we played. We showed why we did so well last season and deserved more.”
Spurs looked sharper in the first half when shots by Defoe and Gareth Bale hit the goal frame. A low-key encounter sprung into life 10 minutes into the second half when Ba scored his first goal since February against the run of play. Danny Simpson’s high ball into the box was only half-headed clear by Kyle Walker, and Ba responded by sending a curling shot high into the net from the corner of the box.
Spurs equalised in the 76th when Aaron Lennon crossed into a crowded box and Defoe wriggled free to fire past Tim Krul at the second attempt after his initial header had been parried by the goalkeeper. After Ben Arfa restored Newcastle’s lead from the penalty spot, Jonas Gutierrez almost extended Newcastle’s advantage with an ambitious looping effort but Brad Friedel tipped it over the bar.