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.
Manchester United3 months ago
Wolves vs Man United: 3 Key battles that could decide the outcome of this exciting PL clash
Arsenal9 months ago
This 19-year-old Arsenal target is exactly what Chelsea need to boost their defensive unit in the summer
Chelsea3 months ago
Tactical review of Man United vs Chelsea – Here’s how Solskjaer got the better of Lampard
Manchester United7 months ago
27 goals, 15 assists – Man Utd signing this explosive 24-year-old midfielder would be the answer to Solskjaer’s woes