Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Stevan Jovetic scored twice as champions Manchester City beat last season's runners-up Liverpool 3-1 on Monday in the first major showdown of the new Premier League campaign.
Mario Balotelli was in the stands to watch new employers Liverpool take on former club City after completing his £16 million ($26.5 million, 20.1 million euros) move to Anfield from AC Milan, but it was another 24-year-old who took centre stage at the Etihad Stadium.
Jovetic's debut campaign at City was spoilt by injury, but the Montenegro striker scored either side of half-time to send Manuel Pellegrini's side towards victory over the team they pipped to last season's title.
The only point of concern for Pellegrini was an injury to striker Edin Dzeko, who hobbled off mid-way through the second period, but his replacement, Sergio Aguero, needed only 23 seconds to score City's third.
"When you play against a strong team you have to concentrate and our concentration and intensity was good," said Pellegrini.
"It's so important to get six points from our first two games as it was a very difficult start for us."
Pellegrini added that Dzeko's injury appeared to be "nothing important".
It was a first away loss of 2014 for Brendan Rodgers's Liverpool, who replied through a Pablo Zabaleta own goal, and left City one of only four teams to have won their first two fixtures, alongside Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Swansea City.
"Up until they scored, we were the better side," said Rodgers.
"We switched off just before half-time and we gave away two poor goals, really. They worked the ball well for the second one, but the third was poor from our point of view.
"It is very early for this squad. As the season goes on, we will get better and better."
- Moreno error -
The events of last season's run-in were clearly fresh in the minds of City's fans, who goaded visiting captain Steven Gerrard over his costly slip in Liverpool's loss to Chelsea in April by chanting: "He's gonna slip in a minute!"
The home supporters saw their side make the more positive start beneath steady rain at the Etihad, with Dzeko shooting wide, Zabaleta volleying over, and Yaya Toure working Simon Mignolet from 20 yards.
But Liverpool withstood the pressure, and after Gerrard had seen a long-range effort deflected wide, Joe Hart had to beat away a crisp strike from England team-mate Daniel Sturridge at his near post.
Left-back Alberto Moreno was enjoying his Liverpool debut following his move from Sevilla, but four minutes before half-time, his error allowed City to go ahead.
David Silva was unable to make anything of a throw-in from the City right, but just as Moreno looked set to clear, Jovetic darted in, nicked the ball off his toes, and drilled a low shot past Mignolet.
Sturridge had a goal ruled out for offside early in the second period, but after Moreno had alertly thwarted Dzeko and Jovetic had headed over, the hosts made it 2-0 in the 55th minute with a fine goal.
Jovetic was both creator and finisher, freeing Samir Nasri with a delicate back-heel flick and then haring into the box to meet the Frenchman's low centre with an unerring left-foot finish.
Rodgers reacted by introducing Serbian winger Lazar Markovic for his first appearance since a £20 million switch from Benfica, but there was more woe in store for the away team.
Moments after Dzeko had limped off following a fall, Aguero scampered onto an incisive 40-yard pass from fellow substitute Jesus Navas before calmly beating Mignolet at his near post.
Zabaleta inadvertently kneed the ball into his own net in the 83rd minute after Hart had parried a header from Liverpool substitute Rickie Lambert, but by then the damage had been done.
An injury to Glen Johnson meant that Liverpool finished the game with 10 men. Aguero threatened to add to their misery in stoppage time, but his shot hit the side-netting.