As always seem to be the case in the Championship, the first weekend of the season threw up a number of surprising results and talking points. None of the newly-relegated teams picked up a win, and nor did any of the three losing play-off sides from last season, while Sheffield United picked up their first Championship win in six years.
There were two Friday night fixtures to kick off the season. Two sides who will be hoping to challenge for promotion met at the Stadium of Light as Gary Rowett’s Derby side travelled to newly-relegated Sunderland. Bradley Johnson struck early to score the first goal of the new season, but Lewis Grabban pegged them back with a debut goal from the penalty spot just before half-time. Grabban also hit the post while David Nugent missed a late chance for the visitors, meaning both sides had to settle for a point. Nottingham Forest kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 win over Millwall, thanks to a long-range goal for Barrie McKay on debut.
Queens Park Rangers arguably put in the performance of the weekend, defeating last season’s losing play-off finalists Reading 2-0 at Loftus Road. Ian Holloway’s side lost seven of their last eight matches last season but began this campaign on the front foot, thanks to a double from Conor Washington. Tiago Ilori was sent off for the visitors for a clumsy trip in the box. Bristol City also began the season impressively, scoring three first half goals to comfortably defeat Barnsley at Ashton Gate. Bobby Reid scored twice and record signing Famara Diedhiou opened his account in an excellent team display. Ryan Hedges pulled a goal back in stoppage time.
Two of the summer’s big spenders met at Molineux, as nearly 30,000 expectant fans saw a tight 1-0 win over Garry Monk’s Middlesbrough side. Leo Bonatini took advantage of a poor Daniel Ayala backpass to score the game’s only goal. Wolves gave debuts to seven players including signing Ruben Neves, while Middlesbrough started with all three of their expensive striker signings – Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher and Martin Braithwaite – but they were unable to find a way through the Wolves defence.
Two of the bigger games of the day ended as 1-1 draws. Hull City took a point from their first game back in the Championship at Aston Villa, who gave a debut to former Chelsea captain John Terry. Gabby Agbonlahor opened the scoring in just the seventh minute, but they were unable to extend their lead and they were pulled back in the second half, as Jarrod Bowen scored his first Hull goal. Fulham and Norwich City shared the points at Craven Cottage, with Nelson Oliveira cancelling out Russell Martin’s earlier own goal. Oliveira had come off the bench and made his feelings clear in his celebration, taking off his shirt and pointing at his name in front of manager Daniel Farke.
The highest scoring game of the weekend was also the last one, with Leeds United defeating Bolton Wanderers 3-2 on Sunday afternoon. All of the goals from Thomas Christiansen’s side came in the first half, with Kalvin Phillips scoring brace and Chris Wood picking up where he left off last season with a header. Gary Madine found the net for Bolton in the first half, and Adam Le Fondre’s penalty led to a nervy finish but Leeds held on. They will be concerned with both Gaetano Berardi and Matthew Pennington going off injured before half-time.
Two of last season’s strugglers met at Portman Road as Birmingham made the trip down from the Midlands, and it was the home side that ran out victorious with Joe Garner scoring on his Ipswich debut. Harry Redknapp’s side will need to significantly improve if they want to challenge for the play-offs this season. Sheffield United’s return to the Championship was a happy one as Billy Sharp scored the only goal to defeat Brentford at a packed Bramall Lane. The Bees missed a number of second-half chances as Chris Wilder won his first match as manager at Championship level.
Elsewhere, the Alex Neil era at Preston got off to the best possible start as they defeated Sheffield Wednesday by a single goal. Daniel Johnson converted from the spot after Tom Lees had brought down Jordan Hugill. Neil Warnock’s Cardiff side took a well-deserved 1-0 win at Burton Albion, courtesy of a late Kenneth Zohore strike.
What did you make of the opening weekend of the Championship? Let me know in the comments below.