LONDON: Lukas Podolski claimed a brace as Arsenal kicked their Premier League campaign into gear on Saturday with a 3-1 win over Fulham at a sodden Craven Cottage.
Arsene Wenger’s side were beaten at home by Aston Villa on the season’s opening day, but they beat Fenerbahce 3-0 in mid-week in the first leg of their Champions League play-off and carried that momentum into Saturday’s game.
Heavy downpours in west London made for a saturated playing surface, but it did not stop Arsenal taking the lead in the 14th minute when Olivier Giroud gathered a low shot from Aaron Ramsey and stabbed the ball past Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale.
Podolski made it 2-0 four minutes before half-time when he side-footed home after Stockdale saved from Theo Walcott, and the Germany forward sealed victory in the 68th minute by gathering a pass from Santi Cazorla and arrowing a shot into the bottom-right corner.
Darren Bent pulled one back for the hosts in the 77th minute, tapping in a low cross from Dimitar Berbatov to mark his debut with a goal following his loan move from Villa.
“It’s never easy to play away or win away and we did it in a convincing way,” Arsenal manager Wenger told BT Sport.
“We had a disappointing result against Villa and it was important to respond, and we’ve had two convincing wins, first against Fenerbahce and again today here.”
In-form striker Daniel Sturridge scored his eighth goal in his last seven league games to give Liverpool a 1-0 victory over Villa at Villa Park.
The England international had scored the only goal of the game in Liverpool’s opening 1-0 win over Stoke City and he repeated the trick with a neatly taken 21st-minute effort.
Jose Enrique’s drilled pass from the left was dummied by Philippe Coutinho and Sturridge slipped between a pair of Villa defenders before rounding goalkeeper Brad Guzan and poking the ball into the roof of the net.
Villa’s best chance of an equaliser fell to Christian Benteke late on, but the Belgian’s well-struck half-volley drew a fine full-length save from Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
“Second half, of course you expect a wee bit more pressure from them, and Simon made a couple of terrific saves. It was about the three points today and we got the three,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers told Sky Sports.
“Since January we’ve been getting better and better. We’ll play better than we did today, but what’s important now is that the mentality in the group is to win, and win together.
“It’s only the first couple of games, but we’ve shown a lot of really good signs and we just need to keep it going.”
Elsewhere, Stoke came from behind to deny promoted Crystal Palace their first points of the season with a 2-1 win at the Britannia Stadium. Marouane Chamakh side-stepped Robert Huth to put Palace ahead in the 31st minute with his first league goal since September 2011, but two goals in four second-half minutes from Charlie Adam and Ryan Shawcross gave Stoke the points in manager Mark Hughes’s first home game.
Hull City fared rather better than their fellow promoted side, with Robbie Brady’s 22nd-minute penalty enough to secure a 1-0 win at home to Norwich City despite new signing Yannick Sagbo’s first-half red card for an off-the-ball tussle with Russell Martin.
“The boy was silly – it was a rush of blood,” said Hull manager Steve Bruce.
“He’s done something stupid, but we have got away with it today.” An 88th-minute goal from centre-back Jose Fonte earned Southampton a 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland, who had taken a third-minute lead with a header from former Juventus midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez had to content himself with a 0-0 draw in his first competitive home game, as West Bromwich Albion claimed a point at Goodison Park in the absence of striker Nicolas Anelka, who is on compassionate leave following a personal bereavement.
“We had the chances to win the game, we deserved a win and we deserved three points. We were magnificent off the ball,” said Martinez.
Newcastle United once again left Arsenal target Yohan Cabaye out of their squad as they were held to a 0-0 draw at home to West Ham United.
On Sunday, Manchester City visit Cardiff City and Tottenham Hotspur host Swansea City, before the first major head-to-head of the campaign on Monday, when Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea travel to champions Manchester United.