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Man City, Liverpool start with narrow victories

LONDON -- Manchester City and Liverpool, last season's top two in the Premier League, were both made to sweat by determined opposition before opening their campaigns with hard-fought victories on Sunday.

David Silva and Sergio Aguero scored as champions City began their title defense with a 2-0 success at Newcastle United, after Daniel Sturridge had struck late in the game to earn Liverpool a 2-1 win at home to Southampton.

The two rivals joined five other teams, including Arsenal, on maximum points, ahead of their showdown at the Etihad Stadium a week on Monday in the first major head-to-head of the season.

“It was very important for us to start with a win,” said City manager Manuel Pellegrini. “We talked to the squad about the “two h's” — we were hungry and humble.

“We need both if want to continue winning titles and improve on what we did last season. We didn't have any clean sheets in pre-season, but we were very solid in this game.”

Pellegrini gave a debut to new Brazilian midfielder Fernando and saw his side take the lead in the 38th minute at St James' Park.

Yaya Toure found Edin Dzeko with a lofted pass over the top and as Newcastle's center-backs rushed across, the Bosnian teed up Silva with a clever back-heel and the Spain midfielder coolly beat Tim Krul.

Newcastle, who handed debuts to Daryl Janmaat, Jack Colback, Remy Cabella and Emmanuel Riviere, improved after the interval, with Cabella and Paul Dummett spurning opportunities to hit the target.

Newcastle substitute Ayoze Perez then saw a curling effort deflected agonizingly wide by Fernando, before Aguero ran through and beat Krul at the second attempt in stoppage time to finally put the game to bed.

Earlier, Sturridge snaffled a 79th-minute winner as Liverpool edged Southampton at a sun-soaked Anfield.

Raheem Sterling put Liverpool ahead midway through the first half, but Nathaniel Clyne lashed home an equalizer shortly before the hour following a neat exchange with debutant Dusan Tadic.

Brendan Rodgers's Liverpool looked destined to drop points in their first competitive game since the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona, but with 11 minutes to play, Sterling teed up Sturridge to flick home the winning goal.

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Manchester City's Steven Jovetic, right, vies for the ball with Newcastle United's captain Fabricio Coloccini, left, during their English Premier League soccer match at St. James' Park, Newcastle, England, Sunday, Aug. 17. (AP)

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