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A look back at the top 5 goal contributors in the Championship last season

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A look back at the top 5 goal contributors in the Championship last season

It is very common to see the top-scorers in the top-five leagues of Europe, namely the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Eredivisie making most of the headlines in the post-mortem analysis at the end of each campaign.

The scintillating performances of some underrated stars in the lower divisions do not usually enter the post-season talks and rarely gain enough recognition.

There is a reason why the EFL Championship, despite being the second-tier of English football, is considered as one of the toughest, and probably one of the most exciting leagues outside the top-five leagues of Europe. 

Taking into consideration the number of games each team has to play over the course of the season, it is a long and hard slog for everybody involved and the fans would know how difficult it is to survive or secure promotion to the top-flight.

And it was no different last season, as the 2018-19 campaign produced some edge-of-the-seat thrillers, intriguing see-saw promotion battles and of course, some incredible individual performances.

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While the campaign ended in promotion ecstasy for the likes of Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, it was absolute heartbreak for teams like West Brom, Leeds United and Derby County, who came tantalisingly close to securing a return to the top-flight but failed to get over the line in the final stages.

Let us take a look at some of the top goal contributors in the 2018-19 season of the EFL Championship. Teemu Pukki, obviously, tops the charts but it is surprising to see that Dwight Gayle, who netted 24 goals, misses out on a place in the top-five in terms of overall contributions, although he boasts of a better goal-minute ratio when compared to all the players mentioned below.

1. Teemu Pukki – 38 (29 goals, 9 assists)

Norwich City secured promotion to the Premier League as the outright winners of the second division for the first time since 2003-04, and Temmu Pukki was the name on the fans’ lips at Carrow Road, week in week out.

The Finnish international was the go-to man for the Canaries in front of goal and arguably the most influential striker in the entire division last season as Daniel Farke inspired his team to an awe-inspiring campaign.

The 29-year-old, who made his move to Carrow Road on a free transfer from Danish side Brondby last summer, took the Championship by storm and racked up a career-best tally of 29 goals, virtually propelling Norwich to the Premier League single-handedly.

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The former Celtic and Schalke man netted braces against the likes of Millwall, Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich Town and Queens Park Rangers, although his most productive outing came in the 4-0 demolition of Bolton Wanderers away from home back in February where he bagged two goals and an assist.

Pukki bagged six man-of-the-match awards in the Championship last season and one does get the feeling that he will once again be Norwich’s best bet ensure survival in the Premier Leauge.

2. Neal Maupay – 33 (25 goals, 8 assists)

The former Saint-Etienne man enjoyed a remarkable campaign at Griffin Park in the Championship last season and proved himself to be a class above most of his counterparts in the division.

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Brentford finished 11th in the table and missed out on a place in the promotion playoffs but the 22-year-old Frenchman strengthened his claims of earning a move to the Premier League this summer.

Brentford were regarded as one of the dark horses to make to it to the playoffs at the start of the season and while the Bees never really looked likely to make it to the top-six, it was Maupay who kept the fans believing for large quarters of the campaign.

The diminutive and versatile striker enhanced his reputation of being one of the most lethal in his position in the second-tier and it won’t be a surprise to see him get an opportunity to ply his trade in the Premier League in the days to come.

Maupay started the season off with a bang, bagging 2 goals and an assist in the 5-1 humiliation of Rotherham United on the opening day, which ultimately proved to be his most productive outing of the campaign.

Other highlights of his campaign include braces against Aston Villa and Wigan Athletic, while the fans at Griffin Park are also likely to remember his incredible display in the 2-0 upset of Leeds United in the penultimate game of the season, where he scored and assisted one apiece.

3. Tammy Abraham – 29 (26 goals, 3 assists)

The Chelsea loanee was Aston Villa’s undisputed promotion hero, as the 21-year-old netted a staggering 26 goals, including an all-important one from the penalty spot in the 2-1 victory over West Brom in the first leg of the playoff semi-finals to propel the Lions back to the Premier League following a three-year exile from the top-flight.

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Abraham caught the eye with his poaching instincts, supreme aerial ability and natural finishing. However, the England U-21 star remained in the second-tier for the entire campaign and was one of the key driving forces behind Villa’s much-awaited return to the Premier League.

The 21-year-old’s exemplary feat of netting four goals in the eventful 5-5 draw at home against Nottingham Forest is bound to go into the history books at Villa Park, while the other highlights of his season included braces against the likes of QPR and Ipswich Town.

4. Jay Rodriguez – 28 (22 goals, 6 assists)

The 29-year-old England international might have been outscored by his teammate Dwight Gayle but he edges ahead of the Newcastle United loanee in terms of overall goal contributions, largely due to his tally of 6 assists.

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Rodriguez could have chosen to depart West Brom following the club’s relegation from the Premier League at the end of the 2017-18 season but he opted to stay at the Hawthorns and once again proved his worth as a bona-fide goalscorer in English football.

However, his exploits weren’t enough for the club to earn promotion back to the top-flight at the first time of asking.

Rodriguez played a key role and scored a double in the 4-3 victory over Norwich City back in August and also took centre stage in the 7-1 demolition of QPR in the following game, with the 29-year-old registering braces in back-to-back games for the Baggies.

He repeated that feat in the 4-2 victory over Bristol City in September and in the 2-0 win against Wigan Athletic at home on Boxing Day. West Brom will be hoping that he stays put to help them reignite their surge for promotion under Slaven Bilic next term.

5. Billy Sharp – 27 (23 goals, 4 assists)

Sheffield United secured promotion to the Premier League for the first time since 2006-07 and Billy Sharp was very much in the thick of things at Bramall Lane, as manager Chris Wilder managed to extract the best out of an ageing forward line to ensure that the Blades completed a much-awaited return to the top-flight.

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Sharp might not be a familiar name in the top-flight but he has always been a prolific goalscorer in the lower echelons of English football. The 33-year-old took his career goal tally up to 238 at the end of this past season.

The fans at Bramall Lane are likely to be ever-grateful to him for his massive contribution in both of Sheffield United’s promotion-winning campaigns in recent times, firstly from League One to the Championship in 2016-17 and then from the Championship to the Premier League now.

The 33-year-old didn’t quite equal his third-tier tally of 30 goals and 8 assists in the 2016-17 campaign but he played a key role, nevertheless.

Sharp bagged a couple of hat-tricks in the 4-2 victory over Wigan and the 3-3 draw against Aston Villa, with braces against Norwich City and Blackburn Rovers (home and away) being some of the other highlights of his truly incredible goalscoring run.

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A look at the scintillating performances of the PL’s new No.9s in gameweek 3 including West Ham and Newcastle stars

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A look at the scintillating performances of the PL’s new No.9s

From Harry Wilson’s absolute stunner of a free-kick against Man City, Moussa Djenepo’s cracker of a finish in Southampton’s victory over Brighton to Harvey Barnes’ net-bursting half-volley, Round 3 of the 2018-19 season of the Premier League witnessed some magical moments of pure individual brilliance.

However, it was a weekend highlighted by some special performances from the new No.9s in the division, all of whom hit the ground running and played a key role in the victories of their respective teams, albeit a few were unfortunate to end up on the losing side. 

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Some of the big-money arrivals in the summer transfer window this term, including Sebastien Haller, Oliver McBurnie, Wesley Moraes and Joelinton, were prolific strikers from other leagues and to witness almost all of them coming to life for the first time in the Premier League was certainly a matter of uncanny coincidence. 

While the more established centre-forwards like Jamie Vardy and Sergio Aguero continued to score for fun, let us take a look at how some of the new No.9s in the Premier League hit the ground running in Round 3.

1. Tammy Abraham

Abraham doesn’t fall in the bracket of a big-money signing but he definitely deserves a place in this list, given that the 21-year-old is a complete newcomer to the Premier League. 

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The academy graduate from Chelsea opened his account for the Blues in the top-flight with a brace in the 3-2 victory over Norwich City, thus playing a key role to hand Frank Lampard his first win as a manager in the Premier League.

Abraham’s first goal reflected his crisp technical finishing and subtle movement inside the box, while he reminded with his second goal that he is more than capable of beating defenders and finding the net from distance. 

2. Oliver McBurnie

The 23-year-old Scottish international, who joined Sheffield United from Swansea City for a club-record £20million earlier in August, is yet to start a game for the Blades in the Premier League this term but he managed to find the net in the top-flight in his third consecutive cameo from the bench. 

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McBurnie, who came on as a second-half substitute against Leicester City on Saturday, outjumped the Foxes defenders inside the box and scored with a fine header off Chris Basham’s cross from the right to cancel out Vardy’s opener. 

That, however, wasn’t enough, as Barnes’ electric strike later on in the second-half handed Brendan Rodgers’ side a 2-1 victory. 

3. Wesley Moraes

The £22million signing from Club Brugge failed to deliver the goods in his first couple of games against Spurs and Bournemouth but he finally managed to hit the ground running in the Premier League this weekend, starring in the club’s 2-0 victory over Everton at home. 

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The 22-year-old pounced on a delightful through ball from Jota and kept his composure to make it 1-0 in the first half, although he contributed a lot more to that victory, including his work rate, hold-up play and slick link-up with the wide players. 

Indeed, Wesley has arrived with a lot of expectations on his shoulders and the Villa fans will be hoping that he can make it a habit of finding the net on a regular basis this season. 

4. Sebastien Haller

West Ham’s record £45million signing was pretty much quiet in the first couple of games but he came to life at just the right time for the Hammers, as the East Londoners registered their first three points of the Premier League this term with a 3-1 victory over Watford. 

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Mark Noble’s early penalty was cancelled out by Andre Gray’s strike but it was in the second half that Haller weaved his magic with some help from Felipe Anderson. 

The Frenchman was at the right place and at the right time to put away Anderson’s inch-perfect cross from the left to restore West Ham’s lead before he pulled off an amazing spectacle – a brilliant overhead kick off a corner to make it 3-1 in favour of Manuel Pellegrini’s side. 

The fans, though, will be hoping for that brace to be the beginning of many more to come from the talisman. 

5. Joelinton

The Brazilian missed a relatively simple chance to score with his head in the defeat against Norwich City but he couldn’t have announced himself in the Premier League at a better time.

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Newcastle’s record £40million signing scored the solitary goal in a 1-0 victory over Spurs, thus guiding the Magpies to their first-ever win against a big-six opposition since their return to the Premier League a couple of years ago. 

Joelinton brought down Christian Atsu’s wonderful lobbed pass with an intricate touch and showed the composure to find a perfect finish past Hugo Lloris between the sticks, as Steve Bruce’s side got off the mark in the Premier League this term after defeats against Arsenal and Norwich.

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Where will the 3 newly promoted teams finish this season? Can Norwich and Aston Villa beat the drop?

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PL prediction: Where will the 3 newly promoted teams finish this season?

Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa are the three newly-promoted teams that have come into the Premier League this season.

Only once in Premier League history have all three promoted teams dropped straight back down, and that was back in 1997-98.

Furthermore, there have been three instances when all three promoted teams have survived, most recently in 2017-18, when Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town all retained their Premier League status.

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All the three promoted teams this season – Norwich City, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, have had contrasting starts to the campaign so far. That being said, let’s take a look at who will finish where in the table.

1. Norwich City – 12th

Daniel Farke’s Norwich City took the Championship by storm and confirmed their promotion fairly early.

During the summer transfer window, the Canaries made some interesting signings in Sam Byram, Patrick Roberts, Josip Drmic and Ralf Fahrmann. Clearly, Farke relies on those players who served the club well last season.

Norwich’s opener against Liverpool turned out to be a heavy defeat for the visitors as they lost 4-1 at Anfield. It could have been worse than that but thanks to goalkeeper Tim Krul, as he made a couple of outstanding saves.

But Farke’s side have shown great character to come back from the disheartening opening day defeat at Anfield. They defeated Newcastle United 3-1 at Carrow Road in their first home game of the season, with last season’s star Teemu Pukki scoring a fabulous hat-trick.

If Farke can be flexible with his tactics and get Pukki firing every weekend, the Canaries can certainly enjoy a respectable mid-table finish.

2. Sheffield United – 16th

After conceding the joint-fewest goals and keeping the most number of clean sheets in the Championship last season, Sheffield United are the most impressive defensive unit among the promoted sides.

The Blades have returned to the top-flight for the first time since 2007 and the plans have been laid down in order to stay at the top for a long period of time.

Having snapped up experienced defender Phil Jagielka on a free transfer following his release from Everton, Chris Wilder focused on bolstering his attack in the transfer window, with the likes of Lys Mousset, Oliver McBurnie, Callum Robinson and Luke Freeman arriving at Bramall Lane.

And to everyone’s surprise, they have enjoyed a really promising start to the Premier League campaign, picking up four points from the first two games. Wilder’s men drew 1-1 with Bournemouth before beating Crystal Palace 1-0 at home at the weekend.

If Sheffield United can make the Bramall Lane a fortress, chances of them beating the drop would become higher.

3. Aston Villa – 17th

Aston Villa beat Derby County in the playoff finals at Wembley to become the third promoted side this season.

Upon their return to the top-flight since the rock-bottom finish in 2016, they were one of the biggest spenders in the summer window as Dean Smith signed as many as 13 players.

The Villans released a number of experienced stars including Alan Hutton, Micah Richards and Glenn Whelan in order to reduce the squad’s age and pump in some fresh, young talents.

Despite reinforcing the backline, Aston Villa have conceded five goals in the first two games. There is a lot to improve for Smith’s side, who are yet to open their account in the points table.

Villa’s massive summer spending is risky and reminds us of Fulham’s approach last season after their promotion. The plan backfired and the Cottagers now find themselves back in the Championship.

Certainly, it won’t be a similar case as far as Villa are concerned, with Smith being a smart tactician. He also has assistant coach John Terry to somehow help the club in difficult situations. It’ll be a close shave, nevertheless!

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2018-19 EFL Championship Rewind: 5 most thrilling encounters

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2018-19 EFL Championship Rewind: 5 most thrilling encounters

Frantic see-saw promotion battles, brilliant individual performances, controversies on and off the field, edge-of-the-seat cliffhangers and goals galore – the 2018-19 season of the EFL Championship had everything in the locker for all sets of fans to rejoice, reminding one and all why the Championship is regarded as arguably the most competitive second-division league in the world. 

While the likes of Aston Villa, Norwich City and Sheffield United ended the campaign on a high and secured their berths in the Premier League for the 2019-20 season, others like Leeds United, Derby County and West Brom tasted the agony of narrowly missing out on promotion glory in the playoffs.

However, all that is nothing but history now and with the 2019-20 Championship season set to kick off this weekend, it is definitely worth taking a look at some of the most thrilling encounters from the previous campaign.

1. Aston Villa 2-3 Leeds United – 23rd December

Operating in the upper reaches of the table and very much the favourites in the race for automatic promotion at that time, Leeds United made the trip to Villa Park on 23rd December high on confidence, having won each of their last five encounters in the Championship.

Up against a Villa side with a vulnerable backline, Marcelo Bielsa’s side were very much the favourites to stretch their winning run to six games in a row. However, the Lions roared early on their home turf and caught the game by the scruff of the neck to stun the visitors.

John McGinn’s bursting run set up Tammy Abraham for a neat close-range finish just 5 minutes into the game before Conor Hourihane’s beautifully-placed low curler into the bottom corner made it 2-0 for Aston Villa at the 17th-minute mark.

Leeds had it all to do after the interval and the Yorkshire giants fought back with two quick-fire goals within a span of five second-half minutes to restore parity at 2-2.

Half-time substitute Jack Clarke scored his goal for the Whites before Pontus Jansson’s header just after the hour-mark set up a tense finish at Villa Park.

Both teams missed scoring opportunities and Leeds had a shout for a penalty turned down, although it was the visitors who had the last laugh.

Kemar Roofe took advantage of a sloppy headed clearance from Ahmed Elmohamady and fired home his 11th goal of the campaign to complete a remarkable comeback and claim all three points for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.

2. Leeds United 3-2 Blackburn Rovers – 26th December

If Leeds’ comeback victory against Aston Villa three days earlier was remarkable, then what followed at Elland Road on Boxing Day has to go down as simply awe-inspiring.

The Whites were on top of the standings in the Championship at that time and were pretty much the outright favourites to make it seven victories in a row against a struggling Blackburn side.

After a rather quiet first half-hour, it was Leeds United who took the lead, courtesy of an own goal from Rovers defender Derrick Williams, who sliced Jack Harrison’s cross into his own net.

That own goal, however, was cancelled out just two minutes into the second half, as Charlie Mulgrew converted from the penalty spot after being fouled inside the box by Leeds skipper Luke Ayling.

Blackburn Rovers looked to have won the game in the 90th minute when Mulgrew scored his second of the night from a long-range free-kick, putting Tony Mowbray’s side 2-1 up with just injury-time left to play. 

However, the tides turned completely in the dying moments of the game, as Kemar Roofe once again emerged as the saviour and scored twice in the first and fourth minute of injury-time to complete an awe-inspiring comeback for the second time in a row.

3. Norwich City 4-3 Millwall – 10th November

Norwich City were very much one of the favourites for automatic promotion at that time and hardly anybody would have expected Championship strugglers Millwall to travel to Carrow Road and give Daniel Farke’s side a real run for their money.

Well, the game turned out to be an absolute edge-of-the-seat thriller, with four goals in the last 16 minutes, including two in injury-time, sealing the game in Norwich’s favour.

Tom Elliott headed past Tim Krul midway through the first half to put Millwall in the driver’s seat before Teemu Pukki’s neat close-range finish early in the second half restored parity for the home side. 

Pukki then had a spot-kick saved after Onel Hernandez’s goal-bound effort was handled inside the box by Murray Wallace. However, the Canaries did take the lead midway through the second half, thanks to Moritz Leitner’s thunderous low drive into the Millwall net. 

There was more drama to unfold at Carrow Road though, as quick-fire goals from Ryan Leonard and Jed Wallace made it 3-2 in favour of the visitors.

Norwich, however, had the last laugh in a thrilling contest as Jordan Rhodes’ equaliser in the second minute of stoppage-time followed by Pukki’s winner in the 97th minute ensured that the Canaries bagged all three points and prevented an upset.

4. Norwich City 3-4 Derby County- 29th December

Norwich managed to edge past Millwall in a gripping game at home in November but Frank Lampard’s Derby County ensured that they finished the year on a high with an astonishing comeback win at Carrow Road. 

Norwich dominated the first 35 minutes and took a deserving 2-0 lead, courtesy of goals from Ben Godfrey and Teemu Pukki.

However, things changed dramatically in the last 10 minutes of the first half, as strikes from Chelsea loan duo Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount ensured that the Rams went into the interval with the scores level at 2-2.

Pukki restored Norwich’s lead nine minutes from time just before the floodlights in one section of the ground went out, forcing both the teams to head for the tunnel. 

Taking advantage of the stoppage, Florian Jozefzoon levelled it up for Derby County in the 87th minute from a goalmouth scramble before Jack Marriott’s lovely dinked finish over Tim Krul sealed an exceptional comeback victory for Lampard’s side. 

5. Aston Villa 5-5 Nottingham Forest- 28th November

This has to go down as one of the best free-scoring games in the Championship for quite a while, although Villa could only manage a draw against a 10-man Nottingham Forest.  

Early goals from Lewis Grabban and Joao Carvalho handed the visitors a 2-0 advantage before Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham restored parity with a quick-fire brace, ensuring that the first twenty minutes of the game produced as many as four goals. 

Matthew Cash made it 3-2 in favour of Forest but Abraham once again rose to the occasion to make it 3-3 before half-time.

Joe Lolley restored Forest’s lead for the second time in the game with a thunderous long-range effort but things went astray for Aitor Karanka’s side when Tobias Figueiredo was sent off. Abraham capitalised on the numerical advantage and headed it in from Jack Grealish’s cross to make it 4-4. 

Anwar El Ghazi’s curling effort gave Villa the lead for the first time on the night but Lewis Grabban ensured with a near-post finish that the scores finished at 5-5. 

Thus, an eventful night at Villa Park ultimately ended in a stalemate, with both teams keeping the fans on the edge of their seats with plenty of goals but neither doing enough to earn three points. 

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