Arsenal off to forgettable beginning

Striker Gervinho sent off in 0-0 draw with Newcastle United

The Ivory Coast striker had appeared to go down easily towards the end of the game, prompting Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton to grab his shirt and pull him up. Gervinho then slapped Barton, who fell over theatrically and was lucky his involvement in the scuffle did not earn him more than a yellow card at St James’ Park. Barton was a surprise inclusion in the Newcastle team after being transfer-listed earlier this week.

Arsenal dominated possession with their trademark passing game but without captain Cesc Fabregas and fellow midfielder Samir Nasri, who look poised for moves to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively, lacked a decent final ball.

In other matches, Liverpool rued a missed penalty and a disallowed goal as they drew 1-1 at home with Sunderland and newcomers Queens Park Rangers got a rude awakening.

Liverpool went ahead through Luis Suarez's 12th-minute header but an earlier penalty miss by the Uruguayan and a disallowed Andy Carroll effort allowed Sunderland to stay in the game. A great volley by winger Sebastian Larsson in the 57th minute gave the Swede a goal on his debut and the visitors a share of the points. QPR's first match in the top flight since 1996 was one to forget as they were thumped 4-0 at home by Bolton Wanderers in a match in which just about everything that could go wrong for them did.

Fellow new boys Norwich City made a better start, snatching a point with a 1-1 draw at Wigan Athletic, while Wolverhampton Wanderers won 2-1 at Blackburn Rovers and Fulham drew 0-0 with Aston Villa in a turgid game at Craven Cottage.

Liverpool had been hoping to build on the promise they showed in the second half of last season following Kenny Dalglish's appointment as manager and they fielded four new signings.

After Suarez's opener, set up by debutant Charlie Adam, they had the chance to stretch their lead but Carroll's effort, also created by Adam, was disallowed after the striker was pulled up for a foul on Anton Ferdinand. Another new face Stewart Downing went close when his long-range strike crashed against the crossbar as the hosts' early dominance evaporated, and Sunderland hit back through Larsson's exquisite finish.

While Liverpool were given a reality check after pundits' predictions that they would break back into the top four after a sixth-place finish last term, QPR were taught a series of top-flight lessons.

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