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Weekly EFL Roundup: Cardiff shock Leeds at Elland Road, Barnsley’s demolition job, and Wrexham and Notts County struggle on return to EFL

All the biggest action from the opening week of EFL football

The English Football League returned this weekend, with 36 matches across the three divisions. From promotion favourite being put to the sword, to record shorelines, here are the biggest talking points from match week one of the season.

No easy starts for relegated Premier League sides

On Friday night, Southampton travelled to South Yorkshire to take on recently promoted Sheffield Wednesday. A goal in the opening 10 minutes suggested this would be a straight forward win but, despite dominating the opening half, the Saints couldn’t lengthen their lead. The game was turned on its head when, in the 54thminute, Lee Gregory levelled things after Saints’ poor set piece management reared its ugly head once again.

Southampton regained a level of urgency as the game continued, possessing the ball for 80% of the match and making quadruple the number of passes as the home side. But Wednesday couldn’t hold back the relentless pressure forever, and former Blade Che Adams broke the deadlock in the 87th minute. Southampton controlled possession for the remainder of the game, eager to avoid gifting the Owls another opportunity to equalise.

Southampton manager Russell Martin (left) and Sheffield Wednesday manager Xisco (right) (Credit: Southampton FC)

Leicester hosted Coventry in the first M69 derby in 11 years. Having won just one of the last 16 matches against each other and firmly the underdogs in this season’s encounter, Coventry shocked the king power when Kyle McFadzean put them ahead two minutes into the second half. Mark Robins side were playing strong football against a Leicester team that is still stacked with premier league quality footballers. That quality helped Leicester fashion a comeback, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s brace in the last 15 minutes gave the Foxes a hard fought win, despite Coventry’s new record signing Haji Wright looking to spoil that one more than one occasion. 

Leicester City fans’ tifo as the players walked onto the pitch (Credit: Leicester City)

Leeds hosted Cardiff in one of the championships many modern rivalries. Cardiff are a team that were saved from relegation last season thanks to a points deduction to Reading. The rebuild over the Summer helped to bolster their strength, in an aim to avoid what seemed like an inevitable drop towards the third tier. 40 minutes in, and that plan appeared to be going brilliantly. The bluebirds had stunned 36,000 fans at Elland Road and were ahead by two goals, thanks to loanees Josh Bowler and Ike Ugbo. 

The pressure was on Leeds to come back into the game in the second half, and it wasn’t long before the comeback began. Liam Cooper scoring a leaping header and nearly injuring himself in doing so. Leeds continued to put pressure on the away side, who were now more interested in seeing out the game than risking extending their lead. Leeds had several penalty shouts, none of which came to fruition, but a last minute equaliser from Crysencio Summerville means Cardiff headed back to South Wales with a point, but both teams will feel like it was a game where two points were dropped.

Terrible start for QPR as Watford tear apart Hoops

QPR have been tipped by many as one of the favourites to go down, largely in thanks to their horrendous 2nd half of 22/23. And the start of this season won’t have come as a surprise to those who witnessed their pre-season performance against Oxford a week prior, losing 5-0. Dele-Bashiru opened the scoring after just 33 seconds and the lead that would be increased by a further three goals before half time. 

Dele-Bashiru slots the ball past Asmir Begovic to make the score 1-0 (Credit: Watford FC)

The goals may have dried up for Watford in the second half, but the damage was done and the game had already been put to bed. After the match, Ainsworth admitted that QPR hadn’t been good enough, while also taking ‘full responsibility’ for the heavy defeat. With games against Cardiff, Ipswich, Southampton and Middlesbrough before the first international break, QPR will need to improve across the pitch or Ainsworth could be seeing the end of his tenure sooner than even his biggest sceptics may have expected.

Barnsley set EFL history against Valients

Barnsley set the record for the biggest opening day victory in EFL history, after putting 7 goals past Port Vale. Barnsley were only two goals up at the half time break, thanks forward Devante Cole and an own goal from Dan Jones. Cole added to his first in the 47th and 53rd minutes, putting the game to bed. 

That didn’t stop Barnsley from building on that lead, centre-half Liam Kitching scoring a remarkable volley at the hour mark, while Jon Russell opened his Barnsley account with a header made by Nicky Cadden’s quality set piece ability. A final goal from Andrew Dallas marked the first time Barnsley scored seven in a competitive match since 1998, and the first seven goal margin victory on the opening day since the EFL’s rebrand in 2004.

League Two’s returning sides given difficult welcome back

When the first odds for League Two were released at the end of last season, every bookmaker had two teams at the top of the list: Wrexham and Notts County. After having such successful seasons and earning promotion with a combined 218, many expected them to tackle the fourth tier in a similar fashion from the off. But that wasn’t to be.

Wrexham hosted MK Dons, a team fresh off a shocking relegation from League One. Dons were already two goals up after just two minutes, before the Welsh side pulled one back just before half time. Dons then built up a near insurmountable lead, thanks to a brace from Jonathan Leko. That didn’t stop Phil Parkinson’s men attempting to forge a stunning comeback, making it 2-4 in the 82nd minute. A goal from each side in added time saw an eight goal thriller in North Wales.

Wrexham and MK Dons player walk out to a 10,000 strong crowd (Credit: Wrexham AFC)

Meanwhile, County’s visit to South London was their first EFL match since 2019. After losing just three matches in the National League, Sutton showed the magpies that it wasn’t going be as straight forward as last season, with the home side opening the scoring after just two minutes had passed. Things quickly went from bad to worse, with County’s goalkeeper seeing red with 15 minutes in. Sutton capitalised on such chaos amongst the away side, scoring three more by the 63rdminute. David McGoldrick was able to pull one back, scoring on his return to his boyhood club. The Us weren’t done, however, and made it five, rooting themselves to the top of the table on opening day.

Next week’s edition will feature all the key moments from the first round of the Carabao Cup, the first match day of the Premier League as well as highlights from week two of the EFL season.