LONDON: Leicester City’s Premier League title defence got off to a dismal start as crisis-club Hull clinched a 2-1 win over the champions, while the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City started with a dramatic 2-1 victory against Sunderland on Saturday’s opening day.
Three months on from their 5,000-1 fairytale title triumph, Leicester fell to Scottish winger Robert Snodgrass’s 57th-minute strike after Riyad Mahrez had cancelled out Adama Diomande’s opener.
Leicester’s stumble was followed by an equally gripping encounter at Eastlands, where new City manager Guardiola enjoyed some good fortune in his first Premier League match.
Sergio Aguero’s early penalty for City was erased by Jermain Defoe’s second-half equaliser before an 87th-minute own goal from debutant Paddy McNair gifted the points to Guardiola’s side despite their inconsistent display.
“The first games are always difficult. Sometimes, you are little lucky,” Guardiola said.
“We should have been a bit more aggressive but these things have to happen to get better in the next game.”
Leicester are the first defending English champions to start the campaign with a defeat since 1989, when Arsenal lost at Manchester United, and boss Claudio Ranieri admitted it was a sign of the tough campaign ahead.
“I told my players this season will be harder than last season,” said Ranieri, whose side lost only three times last season.
“For this reason I told them we must be very strong together because last season we showed ourselves as a very good team and we need to repeat that.”
Leicester went behind in first-half stoppage time at the KCOM Stadium when Kasper Schmeichel parried Curtis Davies’s header and Diomande and Abel Hernandez launched themselves at the loose ball.
Both men attempted an overhead volley; Hernandez made contact first, but the ball flicked off Diomande’s foot and flashed into the net.
Mahrez equalised from the penalty spot in the 47th minute after Tom Huddlestone clipped Demarai Gray from behind, although replays showed the foul occurred outside the box.
But 10 minutes later Hull secured victory when Danny Simpson could only partially clear Ahmed Elmohamady’s cross and Snodgrass thrashed the loose ball home.
Hull are without a permanent manager following Steve Bruce’s resignation last month and had just 13 senior players in their match-day squad.
“It was great to see the team and staff all pull together and surprise so many people,” said caretaker manager Mike Phelan.
After trophy-laden spells with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Guardiola quickly put his stamp on City with debuts for new signings John Stones and Nolito and a surprise decision to replace goalkeeper Joe Hart with Willy Caballero.
Guardiola’s debut began in ideal fashion when Raheem Sterling won a fourth-minute penalty after a foul by Patrick van Aanholt.
Argentina forward Aguero drove in the spot-kick, but Sunderland equalised in the 71st minute.
Jack Rodwell slipped a pass through the heart of the City defence to Defoe, who slotted past Caballero.
That set the stage for a late flurry of City pressure which culminated in former Manchester United defender McNair heading a Jesus Navas cross into his own net from close-range.
Meanwhile, Erik Lamela equalised to earn Tottenham — last season’s third-place team — a 1-1 draw at Everton.
Ross Barkley gave Everton, managed by new boss Ronald Koeman, a fifth-minute lead at Goodison Park with a free-kick that eluded everyone and curled into the net.
Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris limped off with a hamstring injury in the 35th minute.
But Lamela equalised in the 59th minute with a header from Kyle Walker’s cross.
“The first half was difficult for us and we did not play well,” Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said.
“Lloris got injured and that was a big impact on us. In the second half we played as we usually play.”
Koeman added: “I think it’s a fair result. I’m very pleased about our first performance against a very good team.”
Meanwhile, Swansea won 1-0 at promoted Burnley courtesy of an 82nd-minute strike by Leroy Fer.
Salomon Rondon’s 74th-minute header earned West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis a 1-0 victory at his former club Crystal Palace.
Southampton manager Claude Puel and his Watford counterpart Walter Mazzarri started life at their respective new clubs with a 1-1 draw at St Mary’s.
Etienne Capoue put Watford ahead in the ninth minute, but Nathan Redmond levelled in the 58th minute before Hornets midfielder Ben Watson was sent off.
Middlesbrough were denied victory in their first top-flight game since 2009 as a 67th-minute free-kick by Xherdan Shaqiri earned Stoke a 1-1 draw after Alvaro Negredo’s 11th-minute opener.