Manchester United held goaless, Chelsea, Arsenal open with wins

By Xinhua

London : Defending champions Manchester United were held to a disappointing goalless home draw by 10-man Birmingham City while rivals Chelsea defeated Birmingham 3-2 in record-breaking fashion in their Premier League opener.

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In Sunday’s third game, Arsenal came from behind to snatch a dramatic late 2-1 win over Fulham at the Emirates Stadium, leaving the holders as the only one of England’s big four without a winning start.

The hosts dominated game at Old Trafford but could not find a way past a stubborn Reading defence and an inspired Marcus Hahnemann in goal.

To add to United’s misery, striker Wayne Rooney suffered a hairline fracture after Michael Duberry accidentally landed on his left foot in the 37th minute. The forward was substituted at the break.

United missed his spark badly and even after Dave Kitson had been sent off 37 seconds after his introduction as a substitute for a foul on Patrice Evra, the hosts could not penetrate the rival defence.

The champions will be devastated to lose Rooney, who had already suffered two broken metatarsals in his short career, at the start of the season, with fellow forwards Carlos Tevez and Louis Saha short of match fitness.

It also casts doubt on whether the 21-year-old will be fit for England’s Euro 2008 qualifiers Sep 8 and 12 while England manager Steve McClaren is virtually certain to be without Rooney for the Aug 22 friendly against Germany.

Michael Essien grabbed the winning goal for Chelsea as they set an English record of 64 league matches unbeaten at home, one better than Liverpool’s efforts between 1978 and 1981.

Mikael Forssell opened the scoring for the visitors with a shock 15th-minute header before Claudio Pizarro and Florent Malouda scored on their home debuts.

Birmigham levelled with a left-footed strike from their new signing Olivier Kapo, but Essien gave Chelsea a deserved victory with a curling shot from Shaun Wright-Phillips’s cut-back five minutes into the second half.

A terrible mistake by Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann gave Fulham a shock lead after just 52 seconds through David Healy’s tap-in.

However, a late penalty from Robin van Persie and Alexander Hleb’s strike in the 90th minute finally broke the brave resistance of Fulham’s replacement goalkeeper Tony Warner, taking the place of Antti Niemi who injured himself during the warm-up.