London, Sep 12 (efe-epa).- Leeds United, a storied club making their return to the Premier League after a 16-year absence, pushed reigning champions Liverpool to the limit Saturday and the Reds needed a penalty with two minutes left in regulation to eke out a 4-3 win featuring a Mohamed Salah hat trick.
Marcelo Bielsa, the colorful Argentine coach who brought United back into the top echelon of English soccer, kept his promise to stick with the aggressive, high-pressing style that powered the side to victory last season in the second division.
Both the strengths and weaknesses of that approach were on display in the clash with a Liverpool team entering the sixth year of the era of Jürgen Klopp’s heavy metal football.
The champions struck first. The hand of Leeds defender Robin Koch got in the way of Salah’s shot and the referee signaled penalty.
The Egyptian converted to put the hosts ahead 1-0 in the 4th minute and the Reds looked poised to inflict a drubbing on newly promoted United.
Eight minutes later, however, Leeds equalized. A deep ball from Kalvin Phillips released Jack Harrison down the left side and the midfielder got past Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez before beating Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson with a low blast.
The Reds reclaimed the lead in the 20th minute on Virgil van Dijk’s header, only to see Patrick Bamford bring Leeds level again at the half-hour mark after a rare defensive blunder by the Dutchman.
Liverpool went up 3-2 in the 33rd minute on Salah’s second of the evening.
United, who would end the contest with 52 percent possession, knotted the score again in the 66th minute with a goal by Mateusz Klich.
The sides remained level until the 88th minute, when United’s Rodrigo fouled Fabinho in the area to set up Salah’s match-winner from the penalty spot.
Match Day 1 of the 2020-2021 Premier League got under way at mid-day in London with a contest between Arsenal and another promoted team, Fulham, who are back in the top-flight after spending a year in the Championship.
The FA Cup-winning Gunners continued their renaissance under Mikel Arteta, who took over as coach of his former club last December.
Arsenal cruised to a 3-0 win. Alexander Lacazette scored in the 8th minute, newcomer Gabriel doubled the lead four minutes into the second half and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added a third in the 57th minute.
In other action, Crystal Palace got a goal in the 13th minute from Wilfried Zaha and hung on to win 1-0 against Southampton.
Palace’s first-ever victory at open in a Premier League opener came despite their conceding 72 percent possession to the visitors.
Another London club, West Ham United, made a less auspicious start to the season, losing 2-0 at home to Newcastle United.
Both of the Magpies’ goals came from new acquisitions. Callum Wilson, who joined United from relegated Bournemouth, scored in the 56th minute and ex-Burnley man Jeff Henrick sealed the 3 points in the 87th.
The first day’s results left Liverpool, Arsenal, Palace and Newcastle level on points with 3 each, but the Gunners top the table thanks to better goal difference.