ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
West Ham United 2
LONDON • Petr Cech suffered a nightmare English Premier League (EPL) debut for Arsenal as the goalkeeper's costly blunder condemned the Gunners to a shock 2-0 defeat by West Ham yesterday.
His £10 million (S$21.4 million) arrival from champions Chelsea was hailed in some quarters as the move that would tip the balance of power in the title race firmly in Arsenal's favour.
However, the 33-year-old was badly at fault when he failed to punch the ball clear while rushing off his line. That allowed Senegal midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate to head West Ham into the lead in the 43rd minute at Emirates Stadium.
Cech was not helped by an alarmingly careless display from his new team-mates. They crumbled again when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's mistake allowed Argentinian forward Mauro Zarate ample time to slam home from outside the box and seal the most stunning result of the EPL's opening weekend.
All the optimism surrounding Arsenal in the aftermath of last season's FA Cup final rout of Aston Villa and last weekend's Community Shield victory over Chelsea was washed away in a catastrophic start to Arsene Wenger's 20th season in charge.
The Gunners boss must have been horrified with the way his team, tipped to finally end the club's 12-year wait to win the title, were bullied by West Ham.
The latter ended a run of 10 successive defeats against Arsenal with their first win over their London rivals since April 2007.
It was a dream start for new West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, who replaced Sam Allardyce in the close-season. It was the perfect response to criticism of his decision to field a weakened team in their Europa League defeat by Astra Giurgiu on Thursday.
He told the BBC: "We are all very pleased and it is great start for us.
"Not only for the three points but also points against a team that are the title contenders.
"I am very proud of the second-half performance.
"Sam Allardyce left me a good team and left me some quality in the side. We are still short of a few players but we have a chance to do a good job in the Premier League."
While Bilic celebrated with his club's supporters at full-time, Wenger wore a frown as he trudged down the tunnel, possibly to reconsider his decision to distance himself from a bid for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.
With French forward Olivier Giroud failing to repay Wenger's faith after being handed a start ahead of Theo Walcott, Arsenal were mostly impotent in front of goal.
Meanwhile, Dutch midfielder Giorginio Wijnaldum scored on his competitive Newcastle debut as former England head coach Steve McClaren began his managerial tenure at St James' Park with a 2-2 draw at home to Southampton.