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August 16, 2009

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Ancelotti off to a winning start, City triumphs

DIDIER Drogba struck in stoppage time as Chelsea marked Carlo Ancelotti's first English Premier League match in charge with a 2-1 victory over Hull City yesterday.

The Ivorian produced a dipping free kick nine minutes after Stephen Hunt gave Hull a shock 28th-minute lead and supplied his knockout blow at the death on the opening day of the season at Stamford Bridge.

Big-spending Manchester City paraded its expensive signings at Blackburn Rovers with Emmanuel Adebayor, signed from Arsenal, capping his debut with the first goal in the third minute in a 2-0 victory. Stephen Ireland added the second in stoppage time.

It was City's first win at Ewood Park in six years.

City paid US$160 million for new players in the offseason, second only to Real Madrid, which spent nearly US$400 million.

Burnley's top-flight return after a 33-year absence went flat as it went down 0-2 at Stoke City while fellow new boys Wolverhampton Wanderers also lost 0-2 at home to West Ham United.

Darren Bent scored on his debut to give Sunderland a 1-0 win at Bolton Wanderers while there were away wins for Wigan Athletic and Fulham. Wigan stunned Aston Villa 2-0 while Fulham eased past troubled Portsmouth 1-0.

Given a fright

Italian Ancelotti enjoyed an encouraging preseason with Chelsea since joining the club from AC Milan, beating champion Manchester United on penalties in last Sunday's traditional curtain-raiser at Wembley, but he was given a fright as the eagerly awaited league season kicked off at Stamford Bridge.

Hull's new signing Hunt, booed throughout by Chelsea fans because of a tackle that left goalkeeper Petr Cech with a fractured skull in 2006 when the Irishman played for Reading, shot Hull in front just before the half-hour mark.

The visitors, who survived their first season in the Premier League by the skin of their teeth in May, enjoyed their lead for just nine minutes before Drogba curled a free kick past goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.

Ancelotti tinkered with his trusty midfield diamond formation at halftime, bringing on Michael Ballack for John Obi Mikel and the hosts duly pummelled Hull for most of the second half without breaking through.

However, as they so often do, Chelsea struck at the death.

Drogba scored again just after the officials had signaled six minutes of injury time.

He swapped passes with Deco and took the ball wide on the left before lobbing it over Myhill from an acute angle with what Drogba later admitted was an attempted cross.

"I was trying for a cross," Drogba said. "We could have scored a lot of goals today, but we were unlucky. It was difficult but it's always good to win the first game. The belief is strong, as always. Today we showed we will try till the end of the game. We were lucky to score (the winner), but the desire is always there."


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