EFL Championship Gameweek Two Round-Up: Blackburn Rovers Flying High and Sunderland Secure Statement Win
The path to securing a seat at the Premier League table is one beset by obstacles and is a journey that seems endless, but now, after two gameweeks, we are perhaps a little bit more clued in with regards to who may be genuine promotion chasers and who could be destined to leave the EFL Championship by the back door.
EFL Championship betting is notoriously tricky as there tends to be a number of teams with an outside shot of pushing in among the favourites, and the early season fixtures in 2022/23 suggest that this could once again occur.
Blackburn Rovers Riding High
Last season’s push for a place in among the playoff places came to an abrupt end with the injury to top-scorer Ben Brereton Diaz proving a disaster. The failure to keep up with the promotion chasers cost Tony Mowbray his job, and the Ewood Park side have brought in former AC Milan and Newcastle United forward Jon Dahl Tomasson in a move to get their ambitions back on track.
Their season got off to a flyer with a narrow win over QPR, and this past weekend, Rovers showed what they are capable of with a blistering takedown of Swansea City. Goals from Sammie Szmodics (who has arrived from Peterborough over the summer), Brereton and Lewis Travis handed Blackburn a 3-0 victory in South Wales.
That means Tomasson’s side are the only team to come through the first two weeks with a 100% record. Clearly, it’s early days, but there is definitely a sense of optimism at the former Premier League title-winning side.
Back With The Big Boys
Sunderland spent an uninterrupted decade in the Premier League between 2007 and 2017 but then followed something of a major nosedive that saw the Black Cats sink from the Championship to League One, and it took four seasons to get the North-East outfit back into the second-tier, something Alex Neill achieved within months of arrival at the Stadium of Light.
When Scottish boss Neil replaced Lee Johnson in early February, Sunderland were in something of a slump, and the new manager managed to see out the final 13 games without defeat, and that earned the club a play-off berth where they duly overcame Sheffield Wednesday and then Wycombe Wanderers to earn a hard-fought return to the Championship.
The season started with a home draw against Coventry City, and they followed that up with a narrow win following an entertaining clash with Bristol City at Ashton Gate. On-loan Everton striker Ellis Sims netted twice before Scottish international Ross Stewart bagged the winner in a 3-2 victory that leaves Sunderland in second place.
Early Season Favourites Falter
Norwich City were set as the favourites with many bookmakers, but the Canaries haven’t really got going as yet. They lost their opening game at Cardiff City and would have hoped to get their first win of the season with the visit of newly promoted Wigan Athletic, very much a home banker.
Unfortunately, Dean Smith’s side had to settle for a point, with Max Aarons levelling James McClean’s first-half effort.
Another of the sides that fell down from the Premier League, Watford, drew with West Brom in the Monday night fixture with Ismaila Sarr scoring a superb goal from within his own half, only to see Karlan Grant earn the Baggies a draw.
Vincent Kompany, brought in to steer Burnley back into the top-flight, watched on as his side could manage only a draw from the visit of Luton Town but the Clarets are still well placed in the table with four points from their opening two fixtures.
Meanwhile, Sheffield United swept aside fellow promotion chasers Millwall with goals from Iliman Ndiaye and Sander Berge, earning the Blades a 2-0 win.
QPR also displayed their promotion credentials as they saw off Middlesbrough with goals from Chris Willock, Jimmy Dunne and Lyndon Dykes, helping the West London side to a three-goal lead before Boro struck back through Matt Crooks and Marcus Forss, but Michael Beale’s side managed to hold on for all three points.