Goals galore as the English Football League returns to action

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, you’ll know that the Premier League season kicks off on August 17.

Two weeks from now.

But today England’s other 72 professional soccer teams began play in the Championship, League One and League Two, with plenty of enthralling action taking place.

Here’s a quick look at what happened on the first day of action in the lower-leagues of English soccer.

Championship

The big winners were Wigan Athletic, who began life in the second-tier in fine fashion thanks to a 4-0 win at Barnsley. The current FA Cup holders opened the scoring through Ben Watson before new signings from Norwich, Grant Holt and Leon Barnett, both scored on their debuts and Shaun Maloney rounded things off. Honduran Roger Espinoza was an unused sub for the Latics, while US defender Tim Ream was also kept on the bench as rivals Bolton and Burnley kicked things off with a 1-1 tie. Queens Park Rangers beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 despite going behind, as Andy Johnson grabbed the winner. Joey Barton was also a surprise starter for QPR after not featuring at all in preseason. And a good day for the three clubs relegated from the Premier League was rounded off by a 2-1 win for Nigel Adkins Reading side against Ipswich Town, as USMNT international Danny Williams went the full 90. New boys Bournemouth and Yeovil picked up wins after promotion from League One, while Paul Ince’s Blackpool impressively beat newcomers Doncaster 3-1 away from home.

League One

It was a case of goals galore on the opening day of action in England’s third-tier, as 36 goals were scored across the 12 games… and two of those fixtures were 0-0 ties. There was a dramatic 4-3 win for Oldham against Stevenage as Jose Baxter’s late penalty stole all three points. While Leyton Orient hammered Carlisle 5-1 to go top of the league. There was a cracker at Crewe, as they home side were leading 3-1 with four minutes to play. But two late goals from Rotherham United ensured a dramatic 3-3 tie at Gresty Road. While Crawley Town heaped more misery on Coventry City with a 3-2 win. Coventry had entered liquidation on Friday and were handed a 10 point penalty, despite that they fought back from 2-0 down to tie 2-2, before Crawley’s Mike Jones struck late on.

League Two

For relegated side Portsmouth it was a day to forget at Fratton Park. Despite going 1-0 up early on, Oxford United came roaring back to seal a comfortable 4-1 win over Pompey. Elsewhere the other big winner was newly promoted Welsh side Newport County. They celebrated their first season back in the football league in style by beating Accrington Stanley 4-1. The game marked Newport’s first game back in the top four professional divisions in over 25 years. Fleetwood Town beat Dagenham and Redbridge 3-1, and there were 1-0 wins for Southend against Plymouth, Wycombe over Morecambe and York edged past Northampton.

Arsenal hires Dortmund man who “found” Pulisic, Aubameyang

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Arsenal has a new head of recruitment, and he’s the scout who helped bring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Christian Pulisic, and Ousmane Dembele to Borussia Dortmund.

The name is Sven Mislintat, and he’ll take the place of 25-year Arsenal vet Steve Rowley. Reports say Bayern Munich unsuccessfully recruited him in the summer.

[ MORE: Busy week for PL big boys ]

Mislintat also has perhaps the beck nickname of any scout in recent memory: “Diamond Eyes.”

Here’s Arsene Wenger on the move, from Arsenal.com:

“We are delighted that Sven is joining us. Identifying and developing talent is a core part of our philosophy and Sven has an outstanding track record over many years. We look forward to him taking our existing recruitment approach forwards.”

Congested schedule challenges Premier League big boys

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Every Premier League team will play two league matches in, at most, five days beginning with Leicester City’s trip to West Ham on Friday.

Throw in UEFA Champions League and Europa League, and this could throw a wrench into the Top Four ambitions the big boys.

[ MORE: Pulis sacked | What’s next for WBA? ]

The schedule and table status makes life a bit more forgiving for a number of the giants. Man City and Spurs have already advanced, while Manchester United is almost completely through the door. Arsenal’s onto the knockout rounds of Europa, too.

Liverpool and Chelsea can move on with wins over Sevilla and Qarabag, respectively, and the Reds get one more day’s rest before hosting the Blues. Traveling back from Azerbaijan and heading to Anfield makes life even harder for Chelsea.

The European competitions could be great news for all of next midweek’s opponents, but especially for Stoke and Swans. They’ll be getting Chelsea and Liverpool on the heels of two difficult matches each.

We’ll leave Everton out of this, having been eliminated from Europe and likely to start a very green squad from its deepest depth on Thursday.

Manchester City
vs. Feyenoord — Tuesday
at Huddersfield Town — Sunday
vs. Southampton — Nov. 29

Manchester United
at Basel — Wednesday
vs. Brighton — Saturday
at Watford — Nov. 28

Chelsea
at Qarabag — Wednesday
at Liverpool — Saturday
vs. Swansea City — Nov. 29

Arsenal
at Koln — Thursday
at Burnley — Sunday
vs. Huddersfield Town — Nov. 29

Tottenham Hotspur
at Borussia Dortmund — Tuesday
vs. West Bromwich Albion — Saturday
at Leicester City — Nov. 28

Liverpool
vs. Sevilla — Tuesday
vs. Chelsea — Saturday
at Stoke City — Nov. 29

PL Preview: Brighton vs. Stoke City

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  • Stoke leads all-time 16W-14D-9L
  • First league meeting since 2006
  • Potters have won last 8 in series

Brighton and Hove Albion meets Stoke City for the first time in Premier League history when the two battle at the Amex Stadium on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Brighton is unbeaten in its last four PL matches, with a pair of away wins and two draws at home.

They’ve been led at the back end by Shane Duffy and in attack by Pascal Gross, but it’s been a well-traveled Premier League veteran filling the goals. Glenn Murray has historic motivation to keep scoring, knowing that a marker versus Stoke would make him the first Brighton player to ever score a goal in four successive top flight matches.

Stoke followed up its win over Watford with a draw against Leicester City. The Potters have two goals and four assists from Swiss attacker Xherdan Shaqiri, and three and one from Senegalese scorer Mame Biram Diouf.

What they’re saying

Brighton’s Chris Hughton on bagging wins“For a club like us to get back-to-back wins would show the level we are playing at. It’s tough. I remember being told by somebody with one of the promoted teams that they didn’t get their first away win until February-March. That can happen and it’s exactly the same for a team getting promoted to get back-to-wins. They are hard to come by. Any way we are able to do that would certainly be a major boost for us.”

Stoke manager Mark Hughes on Xherdan ShaqiriHe is taking on more the role of the main instigator of our attacking threat. When he gets the ball, I think the whole team responds to that. You sense that maybe something’s going to happen. And I think the crowd sends it as well. And I know opposition team sense it too.”

Prediction

Few matches are more of a toss-up than this one, and there’s no recent match-ups on which to rest our heads. So we’ll side with the home team managing a point, and maybe a pair of old-timer goals from Murray and Peter Crouch, in a 1-1 draw.

Italy soccer chief resigns after failure to reach World Cup

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ROME (AP) Italian football federation president Carlo Tavecchio has resigned a week after the Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Monday’s announcement came following calls for a complete overhaul of the nation’s most popular sport, from the amateur leagues right up to Serie A and the national teams.

[ MORE: What’s next for West Brom? ]

Sweden’s playoff win over Italy kept the four-time champion out of the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura was fired two days after the loss.

For the last week, Tavecchio has resisted calls to step down but he eventually lost the support of the federation’s board of directors.

Former federation chief Giancarlo Abete said as he left the board meeting where Tavecchio resigned that a new election would be held within 90 days.