London        -          Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick as champions Manchester City made a hugely convincing start to their title defence with a 5-0 win at West Ham United on Saturday, in a game which saw heavy use of video review.

Brazilian Gabriel Jesus, preferred by Pep Guardiola to Sergio Aguero in attack, opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a deft close-range finish after a scorching burst and low cross from Kyle Walker. Sterling made it 2-0, six minutes after the interval, with a cool finish after Kevin De Bruyne had burst from midfield and fed the England forward.

Jesus then became the first player to have a goal disallowed by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the Premier League when, in the 53rd minute, he finished off Sterling’s pass following a fine move. However, the VAR adjudged that Sterling was marginally offside as he ran into the box. VAR, making its debut this season, was used again to review and eventually validate Sterling’s second, when he collected a lofted ball into the box and lobbed West Ham keeper Lukasz Fabianski.

The video staff were busy again in the 84th minute when City were awarded a penalty for Issa Diop’s foul on Riyad Mahrez. Substitute Aguero’s penalty soft penalty was saved but VAR ruled that Declan Rice was encroaching into the box and referee Mike Dean ordered a re-take — which the Argentine scored before Sterling completed his hat-trick in stoppage time.

After last season’s runners-up Liverpool began their campaign with a 4-1 win over Norwich City at Anfield on Friday, City’s emphatic victory was another sign that there could be a repeat neck-and-neck battle between the leading pair. The result was City’s eighth successive win in competitive matches against West Ham, in which time they have scored 28 goals and conceded four.

Guardiola was pleased with his team’s second half display but had some critical words for their performance in the opening 45 minutes. “The rhythm was not there but that’s normal for the first game. In the second half we were better, we were more calm, we played extra passes. After we went 3-0 up the game was over,” said the Spaniard. “But I cannot deny it, I’m delighted to win 5-0 away from home in the first game. We finished last season by winning 14 games in a row. It’s 15 now unbeaten so it’s good.”

Brighton’s new manager Graham Potter enjoyed a dream start to his time in charge as the Seagulls beat last season’s FA Cup finalists Watford 3-0 at Vicarage Road. Abdoulaye Doucoure’s own goal gave the visitors a half-time lead before Florin Andone and Neil Maupay on his debut sealed a highly impressive three points for a Brighton side that narrowly escaped relegation last season.

Burnley were also 3-0 winners at Turf Moor as an Ashley Barnes double and Johann Gudmundsson’s strike condemned Southampton to a heavy defeat. Crystal Palace’s wantaway star Wilfried Zaha put his grievances with the club’s hierarchy behind him to make an appearance as a second-half substitute against Everton, but neither side could break the deadlock in a 0-0 draw.

Zaha could have lined up for the visitors at Selhurst Park as Palace ignored a transfer request from the Ivorian to reject two bids from the Toffees after interest from Arsenal earlier in the transfer window cooled. Everton were one of the biggest spenders in the window with seven new signings, but were forced to hang on for a point when Morgan Schneiderlin was sent-off 14 minutes from time for a second yellow card.

Sheffield United grabbed a late point away to Bournemouth on their return to the top flight after a 13-year absence. Chris Mepham put the Cherries in front just after the hour mark on the south coast, but Billy Sharp’s strike two minutes from time salvaged a 1-1 draw for the Blades.

RESULTS

Man City 5-0 West Ham

Burnley 3-0 Southampton

Brighton 3-0 Watford

Bournemouth 1-1 Sheff United

Crystal Palace 0-0 Everton