Frank handed Bees reins

Brentford have named Thomas Frank as their new Head Coach following the recent departure of Dean Smith.

The Bees saw Smith leave for Aston Villa last week and have spent the intervening period assessing how to take the club forward.

Frank was part of Smith's coaching team after arriving at Griffin Park in 2016 and in spite of significant squad changes, has played a key role in helping the club continue to develop their preferred playing style.

The 45-year-old Dane previously managed in his homeland at Brondby and has also worked with his country's youth teams.

He will now take charge of Brentford for the foreseeable future, with the length of his contract undisclosed.

The Bees currently sit seventh in the Championship ahead of Saturday's visit of Bristol City to TW8.

A home win at the weekend is priced at 7/10, with the draw 11/4 and the Robins 15/4.

Rasmus Ankersen says he and his co-director of football Phil Giles always had Frank in mind due to his intimate knowledge of how the club works.

After impressing in his role alongside Smith, the Bees' hierarchy have decided he is the best man for the top job.

Ankersen told the club's website: "Thomas knows the club's strategy inside out and he is both respected and supported by players and staff at the training ground.

"He has played a major role in the development of our style of play over the past couple of years and we believe he is ready for the job as Head Coach."

Brentford are 2/1 to be promoted from the Championship this season.

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Bernard excited by Richarlison partnership

Everton's Bernard believes he and fellow Brazilian Richarlison could be at the start of something special for the club.

The duo joined the Toffees in the summer, with Bernard a free transfer, a move that was in stark contrast to his compatriot, who came in as the Merseysiders' record signing.

After scoring twice on his debut at Wolves, Richarlison's form has seen him called up for Brazil, netting a brace in September against El Salvador.

Marco Silva has moved him into a more central role in recent weeks, allowing him to team up with Bernard, while also accommodating Theo Walcott and Gylfi Sigurdsson.

After winning 2-1 at Leicester before the international break, Everton sit 11th in the Premier League table.

Sunday sees the Toffees take on Crystal Palace and they are 4/5 to win the game, with the draw 5/2 and the Eagles 7/2.

Bernard will again be hoping to get the nod alongside the former Watford man and is clearly encouraged by what they have produced so far.

The 26-year-old says Richarlison deserves the current plaudits coming his way and is confident their understanding will prove increasingly fruitful as they continue to build their bond.
 
"Richarlison has been doing brilliantly and is a great player to have with us," Bernard told evertontv.

"He deserves everything he has been getting. It feels good to play together.

"For his goal [against Leicester], it felt good for me to help the team and with it being a Brazilian player scoring, it was even more special. Now we want to keep going and achieve more."

Everton are 8/1 to finish in the top six this season.

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Bolt wanted by Maltese club

Usain Bolt's trial at Central Coast could be over, after the Jamaican sprint king was offered a professional contract in Malta.

Bolt has been with the Mariners since the start of last month on a trial basis, trying to win an A-League deal.

The 32-year-old scored twice in the club's pre-season friendly against Macarthur South West United in his first start last week.

Mariners coach Mike Mulvey has said he will be patient with the former athlete as he tries to prove himself in the sport, with the club indicating they would make a decision in January.

But reigning Maltese top-flight champions Valletta FC could trump them, after putting forward a two-year offer for Bolt.

Valletta's managing director Ghasston Slimen said: "A champion is always welcome and at Valletta FC we believe nothing is impossible."

The club have said they hope to sign the eight-times Olympic gold medallist in time for him to participate in their Maltese Super Cup match on 13th December against Balzan.

Bolt's agent in Australia, Tony Rallis, has reportedly confirmed the approach.

Central Coast have been trying to get Football Federation Australia to contribute to Bolt's contract as a marquee player.

It's believed A-League officials have offered to assist the Mariners by way of a marketing arrangement as well as enabling third-party sponsorships.

Valletta have stepped up their interest since Bolt, who previously trained with German giants Borussia Dortmund and trialled with Norwegian side Stromsgodset, scored in the pre-season friendly for Mulvey's side.

His goals have attracted more than six million views on Central Coast's Twitter account.

Central Coast are 18/1 to win the Grand Final.

The Mariners are 13/5 to win their first game of the season against Brisbane Roar, who are 10/11 with the draw 14/5.

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Koeman cools Van Dijk concerns

Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman expects central defender Virgil van Dijk to be okay to feature for Liverpool at Huddersfield Town this weekend.

Van Dijk played and scored in a 3-0 Nations League win for the Oranje over Germany on Saturday, but will be absent when the Dutch take on Belgium on Tuesday evening, as he is dealing with a rib problem.

However, Koeman is confident that Van Dijk will be clear to return to action in the Premier League on Saturday, the former Celtic and Southampton defender having managed his injury for a number of weeks.

Koeman told De Telegraaf: "Virgil has played with two broken ribs in the last few weeks. He wanted to play against Germany and you have to give (his) club something back now.

"He's back in Liverpool, but he is ready to play for next week. He's taken a rest and spoken to his manager.

"The medical staff of the Dutch national team spoke to the medical staff of Liverpool and made the decision that he was playing only the Germany game and then after that back to Liverpool.

"He is ready to play next weekend."

Van Dijk cost the Reds a world record fee for a defender when he joined from the Saints in December 2017, with the deal worth in the region of £75million.

He has since scored once in 32 appearances in all competitions for the Merseysiders, helping Liverpool reach the final of the Champions League last season.

This season the Reds are available at 9/4 to win the Premier League title, while they are 8/1 to go all the way and triumph in the Champions League.

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Low looking for strong response

Germany head coach Joachim Low has challenged his struggling team to play with confidence when they face World Cup 2018 winners France in the Nations League.

Die Mannschaft held Les Bleus to a goalless draw in their opening Nations League game, but slumped to a 3-0 defeat when they headed to the Netherlands last Saturday, leaving Low with much to ponder.

However, he is not about to be bowed and has vowed to send his players out in a positive frame of mind at the Stade de France on Tuesday evening.

He told reporters: "We have nothing to lose against the world champions. We are here to take the three points and we want to play boldly against the world champions."

Meanwhile, Low accepts that he has a lot of areas to try and improve on, with Germany having won just three of their last 12 internationals.

He added: "We have learned a few things from the match against the Netherlands. We want to make up for the things we messed up on,” the German coach said at a press conference.

"Of course this defeat was painful for all of us – me, the staff, the players and especially the supporters. At the same time, it's not really surprising. After the World Cup, we started a process in which we knew there would be defeats.

"It's normal for me to be criticised, but I can handle criticism very well. Criticism from the outside does not bother me.

"It is important that I motivate my players against France. I can easily forget the criticism and remain 100 per cent focused."

Germany are 14/5 to secure a draw against France, who are 17/20 to win the game and 8/1 to do so by a 2-0 scoreline.

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O’Neill rues missed opportunities

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill accepts that his side need to be more clinical in taking their chances if they are to turn their fortunes around.

A 2-0 defeat to Bosnia in Sarajevo made it three losses out of three games played in the UEFA Nations League for the Irish, leaving O'Neill frustrated that his team had been unable to get on the scoresheet when it mattered.

He told reporters: "We don't have that player who can win you games when it's tight," he said.

"So when opportunities come our way, we have to take them – in these three games we have had numerous chances but we've not taken them.

"There were positive aspects of the performance, but we're still a work in progress and there's aspects of the display that need to be addressed.

"It was not an experienced team and hopefully these games will make us more game savvy when the European qualifiers come around."

In the Nations League, Northern Ireland have lost twice to Bosnia, while also being edged out 1-0 in Austria, where West Ham forward Marko Arnautovic scored the only goal of the game.

The final game in the competition for O'Neill's men comes on Sunday 18th November, when Austria are the visitors to Belfast.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland are 250/1 to win Euro 2020, with the Republic of Ireland priced at 150/1, while Wales can be backed at 66/1.

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Southgate praises England bravery

Gareth Southgate heaped praise on his England players for their bravery in a 3-2 Nations League victory over Spain in Seville.

The Three Lions stunned the home crowd by roaring into a three-goal lead by half-time, with Raheem Sterling scoring twice to end a 27-game goalless run, while Marcus Rashford was also on the scoresheet.

And head coach Southgate was delighted by the performance, which saw the visitors score with their only three shots on target in the 90 minutes.

He told BBC Radio 5 live: "The quality of the performance – we played with courage and used the ball with courage. If you come and defend for 90 minutes they will unlock you.

"We really showed some quality and a good mentality to play out of their pressing. Spain are very aggressive in the way they press.

"All our players, right through the team, were brave enough to play the way we wanted to play. It's fine to have an idea of how you want to play, but to do it is a huge credit to them."

In particular, Southgate was delighted with the way the front three of Sterling, Rashford and Harry Kane had put the Spanish backline under pressure for much of the game.

He added: "We spoke to the forward players before the game to remind them what a threat they are, and the three of them were outstanding, causing all sorts of problems all night – a tremendous threat."

England are now priced at 10/1 to win the Nations League, with Spain 3/1 and World Cup winners France 3/1.

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UEFA Nations League: Swiss Succeed in Rainy Reykjavik

Iceland 1-2 Switzerland

It wasn’t the humiliation of just over a month ago but an overall score of 8-0 over two UEFA Nations League contests tells its own story.

Switzerland can still top Group A2 while all us supporters knew before this that Iceland were destined for bottom spot.

UEFA Nations League 2018 highlights: Switzerland started the second half stronger through Haris Seferovic's opener

Michael Lang’s finisher made Switzerland celebrates victory against Iceland

Highlights of the game

It took 52 minutes for the deadlock to be broken in Laugardalsvollur but then two goals in 15 minutes ended Icelandic hopes.

First Haris Seferovic headed home after a cross from Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka, the new Swiss captain – even though that decision has not been to everyone’s liking.

Then another English Premier League man, XherdanShaqiri, turned provider to allow Michael Lang to fire into the bottom right-hand corner from close range.

Iceland have not kept a clean sheet for more than a year and, after their encouraging draw with world champions France last week, this was another setback.

Sure, Alfred Finnbogason reduced the arrears with nine minutes remaining with a shot from outside the box into the top left-hand corner – one of the UEFA Nations League 2018 highlights so far and well worth watching – but it wasn’t enough.

This was hardly the revenge Iceland had hoped to inflict on the Swiss in rainy Reykjavik after their capitulation last month against the same opponents.

It is known Iceland can compete with the best on home turf, and they certainly held their own in the first half.

After an early Mario Gavranovic effort was blocked, talisman Gylfi Sigurdsson called visiting goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo into action before Johann Berg Gudmundsson saw an effort blocked.

Sigurdsson again tested Mvogo on the half hour as Iceland came closest to scoring with Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson also heading narrowly wide and Gudmundsson seeing another effort blocked as the half drew to a close.

Switzerland started the second half stronger and, just after Kari Arnason went close, Seferovic broke the deadlock and dented Icelandic confidence.

Looking for an immediate response, Sigurdsson set up Arnor Ingvi Traustason whose shot was kept out as the game opened up.

Unlike the Swiss, the hosts were, at least, getting most of their efforts on target but the next goal was always going to be key and, after Finnbogason went close with a header, Lang settled the contest at the other end.

Prompted by Sigurdsson, the spirited home side pressed on and were rewarded when they pulled one back.

However, Arnason and Birkir  Bjarnason were both denied a leveller before the latter fired just wide and, once Fabian Schaer cleared off the line and Mvogo tipped over another Sigurdsson effort, it was clear there was to be no share of the spoils.

The final whistle confirmed Iceland would go down to the second tier of this competition.

It’s a difficult time for home coach Erik Hamren who is struggling – as many would – to get the national team on song and replicate the form of the last two years.

Two years in which they have reached new heights, including progressing to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 (with victories over England and a draw with European champions Portugal) and ensuring a nation which has just three months of sunlight each year rose 91 places in the FIFA rankings.

During the same period, the Swiss have been pretty steady without pulling up many trees and are back on top of the group – for now at least.

Key statistics

Iceland have now not won for virtually a year. Their last victory came in January with a 4-1 friendly success over Indonesia.

Their last win of any note was a World Cup qualifier in October last year when they saw off Turkey 3-0.

Switzerland have scored in 10 of their 12 matches in 2018, including against the likes of big hitters Belgium, Brazil and Spain. The only nations they have failed to find the net against are England and Sweden (in the World Cup last 16).

After their first three games in the group, Iceland have no points and a goal difference of minus 10.

This was Mvogo’s international debut for Switzerland – he was born in Cameroon.

What’s next?

The UEFA Nations League 2018 betting odds were always against them and Iceland are now further adrift at the bottom of their group.

They travel to Belgium on November 15 before finishing off their 2018 programme four days later with a friendly in Qatar.

Switzerland also play Qatar (November 14) in a friendly before hosting Belgium on November 18 for a game which will almost certainly determine who finishes top of the group.

 

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UEFA Nations League: England Stun Spain with 45-minute Blitz!

Spain 2-3 England

England pulled off the UEFA Nations League shock of the round tonight, beating Spain at the Benito Villamarin in Seville to blow Group A4 wide open.

In a blistering first half, Gareth Southgate’s young Lions flew into a three-goal lead,

breaking rapidly and finishing brilliantly to leave the hosts’ world class stars stunned.

Raheem Sterling scored a brace, his first England goals for three years, but Spain fought back as expected. Luis Enrique has a quality team and they will feel aggrieved to have lost, having been denied a clear penalty.

This was a Spain side unbeaten in 38 and used to sweeping teams aside, as they did in Wales last week. It was a result which blew the UEFA Nations League odds to pieces that’s for sure. At 4.90 to win England had a big challenge, but they rose to it magnificently.

And you’d have to say, of all the UEFA Nations League results so far in this new competition, this was surely the biggest.

Highlights of the game

England was under attack from the off as Spain zipped the ball around and attacked in numbers. Jonny, making his debut, raided down the right and turned inside to shoot, his effort was charged down but if he’d looked up he would have seen Marco Asensio in acres of space.

The visitors were without the experienced pair Jordan Henderson and John Stones, suspended, and their defence was tested again when a Thiago shot was deflected wide. From the resulting corner, Marcos Alonso flew in at the far post but Pickford managed to scramble the ball away.

As England began to get into their stride, the two players who really needed a boost got just that. The Three Lions broke down the left and Marcus Rashford put Raheem Sterling in with a beautifully weighted ball which the Manchester City man smashed into the far corner, beyond the reach of David de Gea.

Spain put its foot down again to find a leveller but then, remarkably, before half hour was up, England doubled the lead. Harry Kane latched on to a long ball and superbly found Rashford in the centre who, after suffering in front of goal in Croatia, took a good touch and finished with aplomb.

Spain continued to have more of the ball but was two enough for England? Apparently not; as the England fans sang, ‘Are you Scotland in disguise’ Ross Barkley chipped the ball forward, Harry Kane sprung the offside trap and Sterling poked home his second. We said this young England team had some bite and how they showed it.

What a first half!

UEFA Nations League: Raheem Sterling scored a brace as the Three Lions defeat La Roja 3-2

Raheem Sterling celebrates after scoring for England against Spain in the UEFA Nations League

Southgate’s task was to keep thing calm and get his team through the inevitable onslaught at the start of the second half, but they couldn’t quite make it to the hour mark. Jordan Pickford was a little careless conceding a corner and when it swung over the prolific Paco Alcacer, who’d only been on the pitch two minutes planted his header past the England keeper.

Minutes later Pickford almost cost England another goal and was mighty lucky. His football skills aren’t quite as good as he thinks they are and when he collected a back pass, instead of putting his foot through the ball he tried to dribble past Rodrigo, who nicked it off him. But before the striker could make it 2-3 Pickford pulled him back and, mystifyingly, the referee gave a corner.

Enrique and his entire team were incensed and quite rightly so as it was a clear penalty. But Sergio Ramos was carded after the protests had eventually died down.

It was all Spain from then on, but England gradually found their shape again to ride out the storm. Asensio and Alcacer both came close but the Lions kept Spain out until the very last play of the game.

Sergio Ramos headed the 98th-minute goal to make it 2-3. And that was a fitting end to a pulsating match.

Key Statistics

The team here at us had a feeling that England would give Spain a good game in Seville but we didn’t expect that!

The opener was Raheem Sterling’s first away goal for his country and it was England’s first in Spain since 1987. The second goal was Rashford’s first away for England. The third goal made it the first time Spain had ever conceded three at home in a competitive game…ever!

And Spain lost its first competitive game in 39, having won 34 of the previous 38!

All this from a team in which Kieran Trippier was the only starter older than 25.

What’s next?

Spain heads to Croatia in November and a win will secure the group for Enrique’s men.

The Three Lions probably deserve a holiday after this, but caring though their coach is, Southgate has lined up a home friendly against USA, before Croatia visits for their

final Group A4 Nations League clash.

If either game is half as good as tonight’s…we’re in for a treat.

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Smith makes Villa promotion claim

New manager Dean Smith is confident that Aston Villa can recover from their poor start to the Championship campaign and secure automatic promotion this season.

The 47-year-old has spoken for the first time since being appointed as Steve Bruce's managerial successor at Villa Park last Thursday with John Terry also drafted in as his assistant.

And, while Villa sit down in 15th position in the table, just six points above the relegation places after a run of one win in 10 matches, Smith does not believe all is lost this season.

In a tight division, Villa are just four points off the play-off places and nine behind West Brom in the final automatic promotion spot.

And the boyhood Villa fan is fully focused on getting the club back into the Premier League at the earliest opportunity.

Smith, who left Championship rivals Brentford to take on the job, said at Monday's press conference: "The statistics are not good for the club at the moment, hence why I'm sat here.

"There is a realistic aim, I believe, to go and get promoted this season. That has to be the aim.

"I've been in this league now for the last three or four seasons, and it is a tough league. For me, it's the most even league I've seen since I've been in it.

"Wolves last season were outstanding. The season before you had Newcastle and Brighton, who were very good.

"At the moment I don't see anyone who looks like they're going to run away with it. There is not an insurmountable gap between us and the top two, or top six."

Villa, who are 5/1 to be promoted this season, face Swansea at Villa Park on Saturday in Smith's first game in charge and they are 1/1 to pick up the three points. The Swans are priced at 3/1 to win and the draw is 11/5.

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