Match Review: Barcelona v Real Madrid

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Luis Suàrez netted a hat-trick as Barcelona demolished a poor Real Madrid side to heap more misery on Julen Lopetegui. 

Philippe Coutinho gave the hosts an early lead at the Nou Camp when he met Jordi Alba’s cross and Luis Suàrez doubled the lead from the penalty spot after being fouled by Raphael Varane on the half-hour mark.

Madrid stepped it up for the first ten minutes of the second half, with Marcelo pulling one back for Lopetegui’s side.

Benzema came close minutes later and Los Blancos struck the post in what would have levelled the game.

Despite this, Suàrez put the game to bed with two quick fire goals – the first being a delightful header from a wonderfully weighted Sergi Roberto cross.

‘Rey Arthur’ Arturo Vidal completed the rout from close range a few minutes from time.

Talking Points

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Valverde shows tactical maturity 

Barcelona fans are quick to criticise Ernesto Valverde if their side aren’t at their best, but when things go right tactically, Valverde deserves praise.

In this match, Valverde showed his tactical eye. Jordi Alba’s role was crucial, Barca reacted to Madrid’s early second half dominance with key substitutes, while Barca overloaded the middle allowing the likes of Roberto and co to thrive in the wing back roles.

In the first ten minutes of the second half, Real Madrid looked well on for at least a point. Marcelo pulled one back and Lopetegui’s side had a plethora of other chances, as well as dominance on the ball. That was thanks to the change at half time to a 3-4-3, which Real Madrid fans may become accustomed to should Antonio Conte take the job when Lopetegui is inevitably sacked.

This change of shape confused Barcelona, but after a crash course of a ten minute period, Valverde acted.

He sent on Nelson Semedo and pushed Sergi Roberto to a right wing role, which allowed Barca to thrive. His other change at this point was Ousmané Dembele, who changed the game back in Barca’s favour with his assists and overall play.

The whole tactics of the game are another issue, but in a very brief nutshell, Valverde should get much more praise than he has received.

Time to go 

*Disclaimer* When writing this, Julen Lopetegui is still officially the Real Madrid manager. The ‘Comunicado Oficial’ has not occurred, but it will, surely.

After the game, Real Madrid sit in 9th in La Liga. Before the fairly easy analysis of why Lopetegui should be sacked, which he should, it is needed to have a little sympathy for the man who gave up his country for a club, and now is on the eve of losing both.

The 52-year-old had the reigns of the biggest club in the world for just 14 games – winning six and losing six.

Lopetegui will argue the sale of Ronaldo had robbed his team of 40 goals. It did.

Nothing about his appointment felt right, and although you have to have sympathy for Lopetegui, the downfall of his career was written the second himself and the Spanish federations agreed to announce his appointment at Madrid on the eve of a World Cup that Spain entered as one of the favourites.

Florentino Perez worried that a poor tournament for Spain would have diminished the size of Real Madrid’s coup, making the appointment out of paranoia and worry over the national team.

The blame can be shared, but for on the pitch matters exclusively, Lopetegui must be sacked.

‘Flopetegui’ will go down as one of the worst Real Madrid appointments in recent decades, but to sack him now means there is still plenty of time for the new boss to recover the form.

Despite that, the embarrassing loss at the Nou Camp means that the league title seems more of a dream than a potential reality.

El Clasico del futuro 

All the headlines and buildup in Spain leading up to this one centred around not who was going to be on show in the classic fixture, but who was going to be absent.

Lionel Messi watched on from the stands, with an arousing smile on his face, while Madrid sulked in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who they are missing greatly since his departure to Turin.

Barcelona showed that life can go on without Messi. Ousmané Dembele may not have the potential of the Argentinian legend, but he showed off the bench that he can mature into a key figure for the Blaugrana.

The worldwide viewing figures may suffer in the absence of the big two, but the entertainment will not: El Clásico is still the biggest fixture in club football.

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Player Ratings

Barcelona: ter Stegen 6; Roberto 8, Pique 7, Lenglet 6, Alba 9; Busquets 7, Rakitic 7, Arthur 8, Rafinha 7; Suarez 10, Coutinho 7.

Real Madrid: Courtois 3; Nacho 6, Ramos 5, Varane 4, Marcelo 7; Casemiro 7, Kroos 5, Modric 5; Bale 4, Benzema 5, Isco 5.

 

 

‘The fixture to define this Premier League era’ – Liverpool v Man City preview

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Klopp v Guardiola. Super Sunday. The best two teams in England go head to head. Heavy metal gegenpress meets the super-attacking jugo de posicion. Judgement Day. Sky Sports can push whatever slogans they want in the lead up to this match, it won’t boost their numbers that much, because everyone from around the world will be tuning in to watch the footballing spectacle that is Liverpool v Manchester City on Sunday afternoon.

The Premier League champions and leaders travel to a place where they haven’t won since 2003, to face a Liverpool side who seem to be the only team in the English game who can say they can go toe-to-toe with City and outperform them. Other teams in the league have done it, such as Wolves, but lightning won’t strike twice with those teams, it does with Liverpool. Consistently, Klopp’s men up their game for the visit of Manchester City: the crowd up the ante from the stands, whilst the players seem to start the match at a 100 miles per hour tempo, which seems to only be reserved for the visit of City.

Here, we look at Liverpool v City and try and preview what will be a fascinating tactical battle…

‘Forcing a rivalry’

It’s become clichéd by now, but Liverpool and City fans love to accuse each other of ‘forcing a rivalry’. Whether it be bricking a coach, singing about each others failures at games not involving one another, or simply just getting hit up about the other seemingly more than either team would for Manchester United these days, the fans of the opposing clubs would talk negatively on this and accuse the other of the aforementioned.

Don’t beat around the bush. There is a rivalry.

Liverpool v City is the modern-day Arsenal v United, the grudge match of the decade. People will look back on this period in a decade or so’s time and conclude that this was the era defining fixture.

There may be no Vieira’s or Keane’s on the pitch, but there certainly is talent in abundance. Two revolutionary coaches and a couple of star-studded teams that could dominate the English football landscape for years to come.

The attacking styles that Guardiola and Klopp have brought to England will set a blueprint in the league just as the styles of Wenger and Ferguson in the late 90’s. Just as Arsene Wenger and Sir Alec Ferguson popularised the whole idea of a second, deeper lying striker (Dennis Bergkamp and Eric Cantona), in ten years, a vast portion of the league may use goalkeepers of the Ederson or Alisson breed, or play with the ‘number 6’ style of midfielder that Kevin de Bruyne is.

It may not be a bitter rivalry yet, but the fixture could be looked on as England’s answer to the Clasico, the two big hitters going toe-to-toe to out-tactic one another.

Should Guardiola alter his ways?

In his press conference ahead of this game, City boss Pep Guardiola admitted that to play defensive would be ‘boring’.

Does that mean he can’t alter his tactics to be slightly more pragmatic? Pragmatism isn’t putting 11 men behind the ball, in fact you can be offensive by being defensive. Mourinho used to deploy three men on the half way line when defending a corner, which in turn meant the box was less crowded. Guardiola won’t do this, but the essence rings true.

Playing his usual 4-3-3 plays into the hands of Liverpool, and ‘taking the sting out of it’ via playing simple passes in the first fifteen minutes just doesn’t work. You either need to go all out and try to score a goal first, or sit back (which Guardiola won’t).

The main thing for City and Guardiola has to be to stop the early goal. In the last five or six visits, City have gone one down within the first half an hour. From there, it has been an uphill battle. If they do this, it makes for an entertaining spectacle, where both teams can feasibly win.

Will Liverpool’s front three turn up?

So much has been made of Liverpool’s scintillating start from the widespread media that it has been near impossible to scratch beneath the surface of what has been a relatively poor start for ‘the front three’, for their standards at least.

When talking to Liverpool fans, they will admit the fascinating trio of Mané, Firmino and Salah look like they have never played together before, and look disjointed.

While Sadio Mané started the season in impressive fashion, Salah and Firmino have struggled to find the form of last season.

Despite this, if history repeats itself, Liverpool players should up it for the visit of Guardiola’s City.

Predictions

Taking my neutral hat off for a second, I am not confident. Less confident than ever. I think that City may get a draw from Anfield, but I can’t see it. Liverpool up their game for the visit of City every year and while I think City will give it a better go than last, I am going with a Liverpool win.

2-1. Salah and Mané to score, with David Silva scoring a consolation for the visitors.

Rampant Wolves get second straight win: Wolves v Burnley report

Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves registered a second straight Premier League victory as they saw off a poor Burnley side at Molineux on Sunday afternoon.

A lone second-half strike from Raul Jimenez was all that settled the sides in the end, as Burnley failed to win for the fifth consecutive match this season.

The scoreline of 1-0 was far from reflective of how the match went, as Wolves were dominant from start to finish.

Newly promoted side Wolves created chance after chance as Burnley struggled to get out, often suffocated by the press of Santo’s side.

The first half started with Wolves in the ascendancy and it was surprising that they did not take the lead.

Joe Hart, who has revived his career somewhat after a forgettable two years at Torino and West Ham, was the star of Burnley’s dismal show.

In fact, the ex-England number one answered every question that Wolves threw at him, with the aid of his back four who constantly put their bodies on the line to clear.

If you watched the game not knowing anything about these sides, you would be shocked to hear that Burnley finished 7th last season in the Premier League, whilst Wolves were playing in the second flight.

The game almost felt like a cup tie, with Burnley clinging on for dear life. Time after time, Hart would make a terrific save or a defender would clear off the line.

Pinball was the best word to describe the ball, as Wolves cannoned the Burnley goal.

Hart, who has started every Burnley game this season, had his best performance since his Manchester City days under Manuel Pellegrini in the 13/14 title winning season.

Sadly for Wolves, however, they could not penetrate and score a goal, so entered the half time break level.

After a bit more of prodding, Wolves did find the breakthrough.

Matt Doherty, who was a constant source of attacking threat, pulled back a low cross to striker Raul Jimenez who nicely finished from around the penalty spot, leaving the heroic Hart with no chance.

Molineux was sent into delirium, expectant of more points after seeing their side get a steady point against champions City followed by a super victory against West Ham.

From here, there was only one winner. Wolves continued to create a plethora of chances, but failed to add to the score.

As the game went on, pessimists may have thought that Burnley would nick something with a goal against the run of play. Gudmundson had a few attempts from set pieces, but goalkeeper Rui Patricio stood tall in the Wolves goal.

Santo’s side ended the match with 30 attempts, second only to Manchester City’s haul against Huddersfield on match-day two.

Adama Traore and Leo Bonatini had chances to double the score, but Hart and co answered all questions again.

Wolves were wasteful, but they won’t care, as the three points is all that matters.

Verdict: I was super impressed with Wolves, who were worthy winners. Burnley looked a shadow of their previous selves of last season, as they were poor defensively, allowing Wolves a lot of space down the flanks. Ruben Neves dictated the play yet again, as his side look well on for the -pre-season predictions of a mid table finish. Next week, Santo’s men travel to Old Trafford to play Mourinho’s United – it will be tough, but after today’s performance, who knows? 

Two points dropped for Monk’s men: Birmingham v West Brom report

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Birmingham City were held to a draw in the Friday night clash at St Andrews against newly relegated West Brom.

The Blues went into this game winless and that poor record continued, but not for the want of trying. A familiar story of missed chances and poor luck at the other end added up to mean that Birmingham end the game with just a point, in a game that they will feel they could and should have won.

Jota opened the scoring before missing a penalty, which summed up the story of the night for Birmingham: not clinical enough. Matty Phillips scored the equaliser just before half time which give Darren Moore’s side the time to regroup and fight for an away point.

Garry Monk’s side started the brightest in the all Midlands clash at St Andrew’s, with the pre-match favourites West Brom struggling to get into the game at all. Birmingham’s early advantage was evident but when the Baggies did attack, they looked dangerous.

The Blues’ territorial advantage was put to good work just before the half hour mark, as Birmingham opened the scoring through Jota.

The Spanish winger pounced first on a loose ball in the box to fire his side into the lead. Gary Gardner lofted a ball into the West Brom box which was poorly defended, allowing Jota to pop up and tap the loose ball into the vacated net.

Questions were asked of young left-back Conor Townsend, who made his first league start for West Brom tonight, ahead of Kieran Gibbs who missed the game through illness. The zippy full-back signed from Scunthorpe United switched off and let Jota ghost into a position of danger, ultimately costing his side.

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St Andrews’ was rocking with this goal, but the atmosphere was to go up a further notch a matter of seconds later.

Birmingham instantly won the ball back from West Brom, who were proverbially on the ropes at this point, and drove forward into the box through Jacques Maghoma.

The Congolese put a teasing cross into the box which Kyle Bartley tried to defend. Bartley, who spent last season at now league leaders Leeds, lofted his arm into an unnatural position and handled the ball in dramatic fashion.

The referee Andy Madley, who had an excellent night, pointed to the spot after eyeing the handball.

Just two minutes after his opener, Jota stepped up and saw his penalty SAVED by Sam Johnstone, much to the delirium of the travelling West Brom fans behind that goal.

The head of Jota evidently dropped, as Garry Monk knew this was a big chance spurned. His side entered this tie winless, desperately needing a win to match the pleasing performances.

Garry Monk was right. The missed penalty would go down as a rued opportunity, as West Brom equalised through Matty Phillips.

The Scottish international weaved through two defenders, including Kristian Pedersen who got beaten far too easily, before poking the ball past Lee Camp.

Phillips had been playing a wing back role for West Brom prior to the international break, but Darren Moore altered his system to a four-at-the-back shape, ahead of this clash.

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If you hadn’t watched Birmingham at all this season, you would never guess they were winless, as they were by far the better team against promotion tipped West Brom.

Chance after chance fell the way of Monk’s side, but to no avail. The best chance was for Che Adams, who skied a chance from 7 yards.

The young striker snatched at his chance that a more experienced player may have took a second and caressed the ball into the goal, rather than aiming for power over accuracy.

In fact, despite Birmingham’s dominance, West Brom looked the more likely to nick something at the end. Harvey Barnes extremely close, as he rattled the crossbar with ten minutes to play. Baggies players failed to get on the end of the rebound and Birmingham survived, as the St Andrews’ faithful took a collective sigh of relief.

Matt Phillips had another chance late on, but his shot had no real traction and was not going to beat the plethora of Birmingham defenders shielding Lee Camp’s goal.

Ultimately, it finished honours even at St Andrews.

The verdict: this game will be remembered as two points dropped for Birmingham and a point gained for West Brom. Winless in seven, Garry Monk’s side were extremely unlucky as they missed chance after chance. It is very early days of course, but the lack of a clinical edge in front of goal is seriously worrying for the Blues, who must look to address this immediately. As for Moore’s men, West Brom will look back on this as a point gained in a tricky away fixture, although some may go home thinking they could have gained maximum points as Dwight Gayle and the impressive Harvey Barnes came close. 

 

EFL Weekly: Gameweek Roundup 09 September

With the Championship taking its early season international break, you’d be forgiven for thinking this weekend’s EFL action could be a quiet one; but you couldn’t be any further from the truth.

League One took centre stage and provided all the thrills and spills we’re used to seeing with goals galore and late drama, as the early pacesetters showed their resilience in maintaining unbeaten starts with gritty performances.

League One

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All eyes in the third tier were once again on league leaders Peterborough, who restored their two point advantage over second place Portsmouth with a battling and frantic win at Southend.

Steve Evans’ men appeared to be cruising to another routine win at 2-0 up just short of the hour, but two goals from the hosts in twelve minutes pegged the Posh back.

Despite the disappointment of letting their lead slip however, it was the late show for Peterborough as they responded through summer signing Ivan Toney’s 87th minute winner.

The victory sees Posh continue their best ever start to a league season, whilst condemning Chris Powell’s side to their fourth league defeat of the campaign – and third at their Roots Hall home.

Just behind the Posh are Portsmouth who lose ground at the top, and needed a late goal of their own to avoid defeat for the first time in 2018-19.

Pompey went into the afternoon heavy favourites with the bookies to dispatch of their struggling opposition, winless Shrewsbury, but found themselves a goal down with just over a quarter of an hour remaining following a frustrating afternoon on the South Coast.

It was a poor display from Kenny Jackett’s men, but they salvaged a point with minutes to play as substitute Brett Pitman fired home from the penalty spot.

The four other teams making up the top six were playing each other, and all remarkably maintained their unbeaten starts with draws.

A late Walsall equaliser at Oakwell snatched a draw from Barnsley, whilst Sunderland could only pick up a point from a game that finished 1-1 against Joey Barton’s Fleetwood at the Stadium of Light.

Just outside of the top six, Doncaster, Charlton and Blackpool all closed the gap to the playoffs with a 2-1 win at home to Luton, and 3-2 wins against Wycombe and Bradford respectively.

The Bantams’ loss at Blackpool – which incredibly saw them throw away a two goal lead with less than ten minutes to play – was their third in succession, and not the ideal start for new boss David Hopkin. The West Yorkshire outfit remain just above the drop zone after a disappointing weekend for the four sides currently occupying those spots.

Like Shrewsbury, basement side Plymouth could only pick up a point on their travels as they drew a blank at Bristol Rovers who sit 21st, and Oxford’s chance to impress in front of the Sky cameras went begging as they lost 2-1 at home to Coventry in Sunday’s televised game.

Elsewhere, Accrington made it six games unbeaten as Billy Kee’s late penalty secured a draw with Burton, AFC Wimbledon ended their three-game losing streak thanks to Joe Pigott’s winner at Gillingham, and it was a goalfest at Glanford Park as Scunthorpe drew 3-3 with Rochdale.

League Two

EXENOT

It’s hotting up at the top of League Two as leaders Lincoln tasted defeat for the first time this season with a surprise 1-0 loss at home to mid-table side Crawley.

The Imps found themselves behind on the stroke of half-time due to Michael Bostwick’s own goal, and things got worse ten minutes after the interval when they lost skipper Lee Frecklington to a red card.

Danny Cowley’s men huffed and puffed, but couldn’t break down a resolute Crawley team who make the journey back down to West Sussex with their second win in three games.

Welsh side Newport were the main benefactors, as they continued their momentum with a 1-0 victory at Oldham that made it four wins in a row to draw level at the summit of the fourth tier.

Forest Green are the only side to have played seven games and not lost one due to Mansfield and MK Dons’ trips to Crewe and Yeovil being postponed because of international call-ups, but Mark Cooper’s team drop out of the playoffs after their ten men could only draw 1-1 at home to Port Vale, who pick up their first away point of the season and put an end to a three-game losing streak.

Carlisle and Swindon are two of the clubs who move into the top seven thanks to wins at Cambridge and Morecambe, whilst Colchester retain their playoff place with a 1-1 draw at Tranmere.

Exeter were the big winners of the weekend; jumping six places into an automatic promotion spot thanks to a 5-1 home mauling of Notts County, who continue to struggle at the bottom despite their change in manager.

It’s now six losses in a row for the Magpies who also saw Harry Kewell sent to the stands, and Macclesfield continue to accompany them in the bottom two after a narrow defeat to Stevenage.

Meanwhile, Bury hit two goals in each half to batter Grimsby 4-0 at Gigg Lane, and Cheltenham scored twice in the final fifteen minutes to win 3-1 away at Northampton and ease any early relegation fears.

EFL Weekly: Gameweek Roundup 02 September

In the first of a regular segment here on Blue View, our EFL expert, Isaac Johnson, provides an insight into the weekly goings on in England’s second, third and fourth tiers. 

Isaac has been attending games at all levels of the EFL for years, and is currently a season ticket holder at his local Championship side Nottingham Forest, as well as an Audio Description commentator at League Two club Mansfield Town. 

We start as the football season makes its way into month two, and that famous phrase ‘six-pointer’ is already being brandished about…

Championship

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As we entered gameweek six of the new EFL season, all eyes were on Elland Road as two of the SkyBet Championship’s most experienced and respected managers set out to do battle.

Marcelo Bielsa vs Tony Pulis, West Yorkshire vs North Yorkshire, the league’s best attack vs the best defence, first vs second.

This one had all the makings of a mouth-watering clash between two of the pre-season favourites for promotion, whose bids for a successful campaign had only been helped by their respective starts, with both recording an impressive four wins and one draw from their opening five games.

But despite all the anticipation that had been fuelled during the week’s build up, this one failed to live up to the hype; Bielsa’s side were far from their free-flowing, eye-catching best, largely thanks to a disciplined and dogged defensive display from Pulis’ troops – in truth, it was a typical Tony Pulis performance, although far from the worst goalless affair you’ll see.

The result ensured the Yorkshire pair would remain in the top two heading into the first international break of the season, and with the action that followed on this SkyBet Championship weekend, also saw them left as the only two unbeaten sides.

Joining them on that impressive statistic of zero defeats heading into the weekend were Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Blackburn, but it was a far from happy time for these three former Premier League sides.

Villa were left with egg on their face after Steve Bruce’s side were left four goals down away at Sheffield United less than five minutes into the second half, before Anwar El Ghazi scored the first goal of his loan spell from French club Lille to see the game end 4-1.

The result sees Chris Wilder’s Blades sit third having won their last four, which equals their 12-point haul from their opening six last season.

Aitor Karanka’s Forest went down 2-1 at Brentford courtesy of Ollie Watkins’ 85thminute winner – a result which sees the Bees move up into the playoffs, and they’re joined by Bristol City who swept Blackburn aside 4-1 on Sunday afternoon to record their third straight victory.

Derby complete the top six thanks to Florian Jozefzoon’s last-gasp winner at Hull, which also made it three league wins in a row for new manager Frank Lampard, and sees them heap misery on the Tigers for the second time this week, having dumped Nigel Adkins’ men out of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday to set up a third round Old Trafford date with Manchester United.

Swansea miss out on the top six on goal difference, despite completing a turnaround at Millwall thanks to goals from Kyle Naughton and Oli McBurnie, despite playing with ten men for all of 85 minutes.

Elsewhere, Sheffield Wednesday continued their revival with a 2-1 win at struggling Reading, who as a result remain winless alongside Ipswich – who could only draw 1-1 against Norwich in Sunday’s East Anglian Derby – and Birmingham, who fired a blank in a 0-0 draw with Queens Park Rangers at St Andrew’s.

Gary Rowett’s Stoke beat Premier League Huddersfield in midweek but were brought back down to Earth as they lost 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion, Preston let a two-goal lead slip at home to draw 2-2 in a Lancashire derby with Bolton, and Wigan complete the roundup with a 1-0 win at the DW against Rotherham, who are yet to pick up a point on their travels in 2018-19.

League One

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Peterborough dropped points for the first time this season after manager Steve Evans was sent to the stands during his side’s 1-1 home draw with Doncaster in a game which saw former manager Grant McCann return to London Road with the away team.

Posh remain top of League One, but now on goal difference, and Rovers sit just outside of the top six despite this marking their fourth game without a win.

Portsmouth drew level on points at the summit with a comprehensive 3-0 win over basement club Plymouth in the Dockyard Derby, and the three sides directly below Pompey in Barnsley, Sunderland and Walsall all remain unbeaten with a 2-1 win over Gillingham, a battling 1-1 draw against Oxford and a goalless stalemate versus Blackpool respectively.

Fleetwood are the only team in the top six to have tasted defeat, but it was a successful weekend for new manager Joey Barton who saw his side win at Highbury for the first time with a 2-1 victory over Bradford, despite Wes Burns’ first-half dismissal.

At the bottom, Shrewsbury remain the only club alongside Plymouth yet to win after they could only muster a 1-1 home draw against ten-man Bristol Rovers, who join them in the bottom four with Oxford.

Accrington continue to adjust to life back in the third tier well, having made it five games unbeaten with a draw at home to Scunthorpe that finished one-apiece, whilst Burton also received a boost to their League One return as a 3-0 home win against AFC Wimbledon lifted them out of the bottom four.

Elsewhere, Charlton propelled themselves into the top half with a 2-1 victory at Southend in a game that saw three red cards, Rochdale put a stop to their four game winless streak by winning 1-0 at Coventry, and there was a share of the spoils in the battle of the newly promoted sides as Wycombe played host to Luton in a 1-1 draw.

League Two

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Lincoln extended their lead at the top of League Two with a very impressive 3-0 win at Exeter, which saw their opponents drop six places to ninth.

The Imps nearest challengers heading into the weekend were MK Dons, but Paul Tisdale’s unbeaten new side slipped a place to third after a 94thminute equaliser for Swindon saw them draw 1-1 at the County Ground.

Leapfrogging the Dons into second are one of the early season surprise packages, Newport, who made it three wins in a row whilst also inflicting a third straight defeat on Port Vale with a 2-1 success away from home.

Mansfield and Forest Green continue their unbeaten starts and ended a run of four consecutive draws with a 1-0 win at home to Carlisle and 3-1 win at Notts County respectively, as Harry Kewell’s new team remain firmly rooted to the bottom of the Football League after a fifth straight loss.

The Australian’s former club Crawley endured a tough start to life without him after going down 2-1 at Oldham courtesy of an 89thminute winner that lifts the Latics into the playoffs, where they’re joined by Forest Green as well as Colchester – who won 3-1 at Cheltenham – and Yeovil, who snatched a 1-0 win away to Grimsby.

At the other end of the table, Macclesfield stay in the bottom two after losing 3-0 in the Cheshire Derby at Crewe, who score their first league goals since a 6-0 opening day rout over Morecambe. The Shrimps also continue to struggle with a 3-2 loss at Bury.

And finally, completing this week’s EFL roundup are Cambridge – who eased any early season nerves with a 1-0 win away to Stevenage – and Tranmere, who continued their steady start back in the Football League with a 1-1 draw at Northampton.