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Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012

Manchester United falls to Everton in van Persie's debut

AP, Kyodo

LIVERPOOL, England — Manchester United made a losing start to the Premier League season on Monday night, crashing to a 1-0 defeat at Everton as Robin van Persie endured a dismal debut.

News photo
Opening loss: Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa plays in Monday night's Premier League match against Everton at Goodison Park. Everton won 1-0. AFP-JIJI

Marouane Fellaini capped an impressive performance by heading in a corner from former United midfielder Darron Gibson in the 57th minute.

"I don't think anybody tonight was considering Everton at all," Everton manager David Moyes told Sky Sports television. "A lot of people forgot Everton aren't a bad team, and Goodison is a difficult place to come and win."

Tom Cleverley came closest to leveling for last season's runnerup, but his shot was cleared off the line by Everton defender Phil Jagielka.

Signing van Persie from Arsenal last week was meant to provide the additional firepower the 19-time champion need to regain the Premier League title from rival Manchester City.

But the Netherlands striker, who cost a reported £24 million pounds ($38 million), failed to even hit the target after coming off the bench in the 68th.

It was the first time Alex Ferguson's side has lost a league opener since 2004.

Injuries, though, meant there were just two recognized defenders in United's back four, with winger Antonio Valencia deployed at right-back, and midfielder Michael Carrick alongside Nemanja Vidic in the center.

And a string of fine saves by United goalkeeper David de Gea prevented Everton from being in front by halftime.

Fellaini, playing just behind striker Nikica Jelavic, was the dominant force in United's penalty area.

The Belgium midfielder had already headed over Leighton Baines' corner before he collected a throw-in and turned into the penalty area, holding off Carrick, to hit the post from a tight angle.

He turned creator, chesting the ball back for Steven Pienaar to slice a shot wide, and then knocked down a cross that Leon Osman hit on the turn only for de Gea to bat away the shot.

De Gea also denied Jelavic, tipped over a long-range header from Pienaar, and prevented Baines' deflected free kick sneaking into the top corner.

United striker Wayne Rooney had a quiet night as he marked 10 years since making his senior debut for Everton, hitting two shots too close to goalkeeper Tim Howard, and seeing a late first-half header punched clear.

After the break, Fellaini's header across goal was smashed against the crossbar by Leon Osman but his contribution was rewarded with a goal in the 57th.

"Fortunately, the big man (Fellaini) put his head where it hurts and we had something to hang on to," Jagielka said.

Van Persie's arrival meant Rooney shifted to the left, but it was another new signing, Shinji Kagawa, who made a bigger impression. The Japan playmaker forced Howard to race off his line to block his run and shot.

"I'm disappointed I wasn't able to get a good result in the season opener," said Kagawa.

"I don't want to forget this disappointment and get ready for my next match. I feel a lot of responsibility for our loss," he said.

Pardew charged by F.A.


LONDON — Newcastle manager Alan Pardew was charged with misconduct by the English Football Association on Monday after he pushed a match official on the opening day of the Premier League season.

Pardew was sent to the stands during Saturday's 2-1 victory over Tottenham for shoving referee's assistant Peter Kirkup following a disputed throw-in.

Despite apologizing after the match, Pardew is facing a sideline ban and/or a fine.

He has until Thursday to respond to the charge, but appears unlikely to contest the charge.

"It was ridiculous and I apologize publicly," Pardew said after Saturday's match. "I thought the ball was out, I shoved him. I have pleaded with my players to behave and follow the Olympic spirit."

Song signs with Barca


BARCELONA, Spain — Cameroon midfielder Alex Song signed a five-year contract with Barcelona on Monday, bringing an end to his time with Premier League club Arsenal.

Song posed for the traditional photo in front of the club's insignia before passing a medical examination and meeting with Barcelona president Sandro Rosell.

"I'm very happy to be here because everyone knows that this is the best team in the world," said Song.

Song was brought in to replace Seydou Keita, who played a limited, but important role in providing Barcelona with a more physical presence in midfield.

The Spanish club paid Arsenal €19 million ($23.4 million) for Song.

Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova said he was impressed with Song's versatility.

"(Song) can provide us with a lot of things. He's very good, he recovers the ball well and then can do good things with it," said Vilanova.

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