Liverpool ties opener against Tottenham without Owen


LONDON, AP

Liverpool, without Michael Owen, drew 1-1 with Tottenham as the Premier League season opened Saturday.

Another striker, Djibril Cisse, scored in the 37th minute to give Liverpool the lead, but Jermaine Defoe leveled in the 71st as the home team picked up its play in the second half.

The game marked the English managerial debuts of Spaniard Rafael Benitez and Frenchman Jacques Santini. Benitez, who led Valencia to a league and UEFA Cup double last season, replaced Gerard Houllier at Liverpool. Santini left the French national team following Euro 2004, taking over from caretaker David Pleat.

Later, Bolton got two goals each from Jay Jay Okocha and Henrik Pedersen to beat Charlton 4-1, and Aston Villa downed Southampton 2-0.

Four other matches ended in 1-1 ties. Portsmouth had a controversial penalty against Birmingham; U.S. international ‘keeper Brad Friedel started as Blackburn faced newcomer West Brom; Fulham scored with its first shot — in the second half — at Manchester City; and Crystal Palace rallied at Norwich in a battle of promoted teams.

New signing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored in second-half injury time as Middlesbrough and Newcastle played to a 2-2 draw.

Defending champion Arsenal faces Everton on Sunday, boosted by the news team captain Patrick Vieira has decided to stay in London instead of joining Real. Also on Sunday, Chelsea, second last season, plays Manchester United, which was third.

Owen was acquired by Real Madrid in a reported 8 million pound ($US14.7 million) deal Friday. The announcement came after contract negotiations between Owen and Liverpool apparently broke down.

The 24-year-old scored 158 goals in 297 appearances with Liverpool.

“We were all shocked about Michael leaving,” midfielder Steven Gerrard said. “It looked like he would be staying, then Real Madrid called, and everyone knows how difficult that is to turn down.”

He joins a star-studded lineup in Madrid that includes Brazilian striker Ronaldo, French midfielder Zinedine Zidane, Portuguese midfielder Luis Figo, Brazilian left back Roberto Carlos and England captain David Beckham.

“No one can blame Michael for going,” Gerrard said. “He has been such a good servant.”

Cisse, signed in the summer from Auxerre, was partnered up front with Czech Milan Baros, who led Euro 2004 in scoring.

He opened the scoring when he picked up a clearance at the edge of the six-yard box and shot past Paul Robinson, who started ahead of United States international Kasey Keller.

Defoe made it 1-1 when he won a challenge with defender Jamie Carragher and shot past Jerzy Dudek.

Tottenham played without five injured regulars and right back Stephen Carr, who joined Newcastle this week.

“We know Liverpool is a good team with many internationals,” Santini said. “I’m very happy because my team needed confidence — our preparation wasn’t good. We had many injured players.”

Okocha’s first came from a brilliant free kick in the 11th minute. The gifted Nigerian, who celebrated his 31st birthday Saturday, didn’t score a league goal last season.

“I think you’ve probably seen one of the best free kicks of the season already,” Bolton manager Sam Allardyce said. “Jay-Jay led by example. Not only did he show great skill and passing ability, but he had a great work rate.” Darius Vassell (12) and Carlton Cole (34), on loan from Chelsea, scored for Villa in the absence of the injured Juan Pablo Angel.

Angel helped Villa finish sixth.

“We were a midtable club who overachieved, and we’ll try to do it again,” manager David O’Leary said.

Robbie Savage’s free kick gave Birmingham a 10th-minute lead, although David Unsworth leveled from the spot six minutes later. Referee Howard Webb awarded the spot kick after seeing a push on Steve Stone in the box.

“I don’t want to come and say he got it wrong, because we’ll hear that excuse for the next six months,” said Birmingham manager Steve Bruce, whose team last won away in December. “But I think the penalty was very harsh.”

Friedel shook off a preseason leg injury to start at Ewood Park, where Blackburn lost 10 times last season. Neil Clement gave West Brom the lead in the 33rd minute before Craig Short (70) made it 1-1.

Robbie Fowler scored on a stunning 28th minute kick with his right foot, but City couldn’t hang on. Collins John replied for Fulham in the 56th minute.

Manchester City has won only two of its last 16 home games.

Darren Huckerby had Norwich’s goal in the 16th minute. Andy Johnson leveled in the 73rd minute.

Hasselbaink scored on a header from a Bolo Zenden cross at Middlesbrough.

Craig Bellamy (14) and Alan Shearer, with an 83rd-minute penalty, earlier scored for Newcastle as manager Bobby Robson named summer signing Patrick Kluivert as a substitute. Stewart Downing (73) had ‘Boro’s other goal.

Arsenal, which finished with 26 wins and 12 draws last season, hasn’t been beaten in the league in 40 games. Vieira, linked with Real Madrid for more than a month, won’t play Sunday because of a thigh injury. Defender Sol Campbell is also out.

Striker Wayne Rooney (foot) is sidelined for Everton.

Manchester United will be without half dozen first-team regulars, though U.S. ‘keeper Tim Howard is expected to start ahead of Roy Carroll.