Game of the Week: Bolton Wanderers 2 Leeds United 3. Opening Weekend of the 2017-18 EFL Championship season.

The Macron Stadium, located in suburbs of Manchester not so long ago was home to Premier League fixtures. Though relegation in 2012 under Owen Coyle and an excess of looming debt from reckless ownership, bogged Bolton down to the point of relegation from the Championship in 2015. Bolton fans over the past few years could be forgiven for being beleaguered to say the least. Luckily, the club popped right back up under Phil Parkinson last year despite the transfer embargo and ownership disputes between Holdsworth and Ken Anderson last season.

Bolton this summer has brought in right back Stephen Darby from Brentford, right winger Will Buckley from Sunderland, center forward Sammy Ameobi from Newcastle, and twenty one year old central midfielder Josh Cullen who is on loan form West Ham. Notable departures include ex-captain Jay Spearing, central midfielders Liam Trotter and Mark Davies. Phi Parkinson has brought in Championship caliber players and experience to fill the void that Jay Spearing has left, all on free transfers.

 

In near-by Leeds, the story is a little bit different. Leeds finished 7th in the championship last year under Gary Monk and mid-way through the season looked destined to make a run in the playoffs before falling apart at the tail end of last season. New Seoul based owner Andrea Radrizzani parted ways with Monk and hired Spanish manager Thomas Christiansen from APOEL Nicosia. United has come close multiple times to returning to the Premier League but the team has often folded when it matters most in the extremely competitive English Championship.

Leeds United last season was lead by New Zealand centre-forward Chris Wood who found the back of the net twenty seven times. Wood was helped by nineteen year old Guinea Bissau midfielder Ronaldo Vieira, who continues to impress with his tactical intelligence despite his young age and thirty two year old Spanish midfielder Pablo Hernandez whose expertise in play making and finding space was second to none in the Championship. Notable arrivals to Elland Road include right winger Hadi Sacko from Sporting B, Macedonian defender Ezgjan Alioski, Polish center midfielder Mateusz Klich from the Dutch club Twente, and young center back Matthew Pennington who is currently on a season long loan from Everton. Leeds has brought in experience in the midfield to help out Vieira and solid secondary strikers to help out Wood this season. Leeds are one of the favorites to get promoted from the Championship this season along with Middlesborough, Aston Villa, Hull, Sunderland, Fulham, and others.

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Bolton started in a 5-3-2 formation with defensive standouts Wheater and Beevers at the center of the backline. Last year they scored 16 goals between them. Turkish international Jem Karacan sat in the middle of the park with West Ham United loanee Josh Cullen out wide along with Josh Vela. Gary Madine and newly signed Adam Le Fondre were up front.

Ronaldo Vieira was not included in the squad for this match because he hasn’t been used much over the summer. Soleman Doukara was also not included in the squad for this match. Leeds started with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Chris Wood up top. Alloski, Hernandez, and Roofe as attacking midfielders with Phillips and O’Keane in front of the back four. Cooper and youngster Pennington were in the center with Berardi and Ayling out wide. Swedish international center back Pontus Jansson was not included in the squad because of his three match suspension.

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This game was full of fireworks and goals.

Six minutes in defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips gave Leeds the dream start off a short corner from Pablo Hernandez. Phillips curved the ball from the right side of the 18 yard box to the far left corner out of Mark Howard’s reach. The goal came out of relatively nothing, neither Bolton or Leeds were on the front foot at this early stage in the match.

Bolton didn’t threaten the opposition goal and were punished again in the 30th minute. A Kemar Roofe cross met Allioski’s head at the far post who headed it back to Wood in the middle to give Leeds the 2-0 lead with only half an hour gone.

Former Newcastle United player Anita came on for the injured Berardi in the 37th minute. Right after that substitution Gary Medin pounced off a Josh Vela corner to give the home side a goal. Bolton is known for scoring on set pieces and they continued that trend just before halftime.

Calvin Phillips then scored again after Hernandez put a simple ball through the square Bolton defense to find Wood who passed it to Phillips to give Leeds the 3-1 lead. The call was tight and Wood could have easily been called for offside.

Leeds continued to play free flowing attacking football in the second half, troubling Bolton keeper Mark Howard multiple times but Leeds couldn’t get their fourth.

In the 67th minute, Bolton scored again off another set piece after an Adam Le Fondre a penalty. The penalty was given after Madine’s shirt was pulled by substitute defender Conor Shaughnessy in the box. It was a horrible defensive error by the substitute and ultimately it cost them.

Leeds continued to have the lions share of possession as the game reached its end, pushing Bolton back from a potential equalizer. Bolton lacked any attacking threat as the game ended, giving Leeds the 3-2 win.

 

Leeds look like legit Championship promotion contenders with free flowing football to go along with ti, while Bolton looked set for a relegation dog fight relegation given their financial shackles and lack of attacking threats.

In week 2 of the 2017-18 Championship season, Leeds will have their home opener against Preston North End and Bolton will travel to the Den to face newly promoted Millwall.

 

 

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