A stunning 87th-minute free-kick by captain Steven Gerrard gave Liverpool a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa as the new Premier League season opened on Saturday. Sven-Goran Eriksson's Manchester City beat West Ham United 2-0, Roy Keane's promoted Sunderland snatched a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur and Sam Allardyce's first game as Newcastle United boss ended in a 3-1 win at former club Bolton Wanderers. Liverpool looked set for a disappointing start when their 31st-minute lead, courtesy of an own goal by Villa's Danish defender Martin Laursen, was cancelled out by Gareth Barry's 85th-minute penalty.
But Gerrard curled home an inswinging free-kick from 25 metres two minutes later, dipping the ball into the top right-hand corner after deftly bending it around the Villa wall. “Over the last couple of seasons, we've been very frustrated with the starts we've made,” Gerrard told Setanta Sports. “We've dropped silly points and been playing catch up with the big boys early on. The idea this year is to get a solid start and try to stay in the (title) race all the way.” Manchester City's goals came from new signings, following the takeover by former Thai Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, with Italian striker Rolando Bianchi and Brazilian midfielder Geovanni on target. Sunderland's winner came from new signing and substitute Michael Chopra in the fourth minute of stoppage time. There was no room for sentiment for Allardyce on his return to the Reebok Stadium. His side were 3-0 up in under half an hour, with Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins scoring twice, as they swept aside a Bolton side managed by his former assistant Sammy Lee. Elsewhere, Blackburn Rovers came from behind to beat Middlesbrough 2-1, Everton were 2-1 winners over Wigan Athletic and promoted Derby County drew 2-2 with Portsmouth.