Scott Parker won the battle of the former England midfielders as his newly-promoted Bournemouth side enjoyed a dream Premier League return with a 2-0 win over Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa.
Goals either side of half-time from Jefferson Lerma and Kieffer Moore earned the Cherries a deserved victory at the Vitality Stadium.
Gerrard, who played alongside Parker at Euro 2012, cut a frustrated figure for much of the afternoon and was left with plenty to ponder on the journey home.
His expensively-assembled team dominated possession in the south-coast sunshine but were toothless in attack.
Bournemouth were playing their 191st match at this level and first without long-serving former manager Eddie Howe in the dugout.
Frustrated by a lack of summer transfer activity following promotion as Championship runners-up, current boss Parker claimed last week his side were “way short of where we need to be”.
Yet he soon had reason for greater optimism as new signing Marcus Tavernier, one of four top-flight debutants, contributed to their second-minute opener.
Colombia international Lerma claimed the goal, emphatically lashing home a deflected, left-footed drive from close range after the visitors made a mess of clearing Tavernier’s right-wing corner.
Villa escaped relegation at Bournemouth’s expense in 2020 and also won on this ground in their opponents’ first Premier League fixture back in 2015.
With a top-half finish the pre-season target, Gerrard handed debuts to summer recruits Diego Carlos and Boubacar Kamara in Dorset, while former Cherries defender Tyrone Mings, who was stripped of the Villa captaincy during the summer, had to settle for a place on the bench alongside fellow England international Ollie Watkins and the fit-again Emiliano Buendia.
The away side monopolised the ball for much of the afternoon, with the open period frantic and, at times, tetchy.
Bournemouth’s insistence in playing out from the back led to a few nervy moments for the home support and former Cherries striker Danny Ings and midfielder Jacob Ramsey each threatened an equaliser by testing Mark Travers.
At the other end, Dominic Solanke and Adam Smith went close to extending the home team’s advantage.
Gerrard responded to the half-time deficit by introducing Buendia in place of Ramsey, one of four players booked before the break by referee Peter Bankes.
Bournemouth began to drop deeper following the restart, inviting pressure and looking for a breakaway second.
Yet the Cherries back three of Lerma, Chris Mepham and Lloyd Kelly remained rock solid and were relatively untested.
Villa’s new France international Kamara provided a rare anxious moment with a dipping drive from distance which had Travers at full stretch and flew just wide, before Watkins was sent on in place of Ings.
Gerrard is under more pressure to deliver consistent results at Villa Park this campaign following up and down form since arriving from Rangers in November and his changes had little impact.
Substitute Buendia showed flashes of inspiration before hopes of salvaging a draw were extinguished 10 minutes from time when towering striker Moore expertly nodded beyond Emiliano Martinez following a cross from captain Kelly.
With Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool to come in the next three weeks, Parker will undoubtedly be delighted to get off to a winning start as he quickly turns his attention back to the transfer market.