Nations League: NI boss Michael O’Neill rues missed chances in Bosnia defeat

Nations League: NI boss Michael O’Neill rues missed chances in Bosnia defeat

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Dejection for Corry Evans as the hosts celebrate Edin Dzeko’s opening goal in Sarajevo

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill was disappointed as his team hit the woodwork three times in a 2-0 defeat by Bosnia-Herzegovina.

It leaves O’Neill’s side bottom of their Nations League group after losing all three games.

“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.”

George Saville was first to strike the post before substitute Gavin Whyte was denied twice by the woodwork – both players were also guilty of glaring misses.

“It was the timing of the misses that hurt us – if we had gone ahead then the whole dynamic of the game would have changed,” added O’Neill.

Nations League: Northern Ireland a work in progress – O’Neill

“George hits the post and should have scored before that but then there’s a mistake from Jamal (Lewis) and Dzeko punishes us.

“Then we should have been level with young Gavin’s chance and we are punished again.

“There were positive aspects of the performance but we’re still a work in progress and there’s aspects of the display that need addressed.

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

Corry Evans was handed the captain’s armband to mark his 50th Northern Ireland appearance and he also highlighted the team’s wasteful finishing.

Northern Ireland midfielder Stuart Dallas stretches to control the ball in the Nations League game

“When you come to a place this this and don’t take tour chances you get punished,” said the midfielder.

“It’s disappointing to lose the game but we didn’t take our chances at key moments.

“We’ve got to learn from it and learn from it quickly – we’ve got to get back to winning matches and hopefully we can do that next month.”

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October 15, 2018 at 04:36PM

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Sterling’s best game? New hope? – England have lift-off

Sterling’s best game? New hope? – England have lift-off

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Raheem Sterling has now scored four England goals – as many as Steve Bull, Nick Barmby and Darren Bent

Was this the moment that the Nations League went from “the most senseless competition in football” to earning a place in the hearts of England fans everywhere?

Few expected much from Gareth Southgate’s side as they travelled to take on Spain in Seville on Monday night, but instead the Three Lions were 3-0 up before half-time and on their way to a historic win at Estadio Benito Villamarin.

Spain had never before conceded three goals in a competitive home fixture, while Southgate – despite his World Cup heroics – had never before beaten an ‘elite’ side.

So, less than 100 days after the semi-final defeat by Croatia, is the future bright for England? Again?

Sterling’s best day yet?

Central to England’s clinical first-half display was Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who ended an 1,102-day goal drought on the international stage with a fine opener, burying Marcus Rashford’s pass for his first goal for England since 2015.

Sterling had had 34 shots for England between goals, hitting the target with just four attempts, but soon had his second of the night from Harry Kane’s knock-down.

Former England captain Terry Butcher said on BBC Radio 5 live that the game was “comfortably Sterling’s best in an England shirt”, with the 23-year-old revealing after the match that he had changed his approach.

He said: “There is nothing better than scoring in an England shirt.

“It was a beautiful feeling to score. I put pressure on myself – it’s my position to score goals. It means a lot to me. Three years is a long time not to score.

“As a forward you go through patches but I am now forgetting about looking nice, and just focusing on getting in behind and causing havoc.”

Aside from his goals, no England player made more passes in the Spain half (16) and only Tottenham pair Kieran Tripper and Harry Winks had more touches of the ball than his 46.

‘Exceptional’ England stop Spain

Winners of the 2008 and 2012 European Championship, with the 2010 World Cup sandwiched in between, Spain have a recent history of being serial winners. They just do not like losing.

Aside from their exit on penalties against hosts Russia at the World Cup in the summer, their last defeat in a competitive match came against Italy in the knockout stages of Euro 2016.

Then Southgate and his boys came along.

England rattled Spain by becoming the first side to put three goals past them in a competitive home international, while ending their 38-game unbeaten run on their own patch stretching back to 2003.

The Three Lions also recorded their first victory away against Spain since February 1987, when Gary Lineker scored all four goals in a 4-2 win.

Spanish football expert Guillem Balague told BBC Radio 5 live: “This is verging on exceptional for England – they have success at the youth ages and they now have a style of play, they now have a clear selection policy.

“Even without Jordan Henderson and John Stones they don’t look worried, they look comfortable.”

New players, new hope?

Gareth Southgate has talked up England’s next generation of players and while he avoided the temptation to introduce them en masse, his line-up against Spain had an average age of just over 23.

It represented England’s youngest team for a competitive fixture since 1959 and the likes of Winks and Joe Gomez both repaid his faith.

With Liverpool’s 28-year-old captain Henderson suspended along with Manchester City’s Stones, Winks, 22, and Gomez, 24 stepped into the breach.

Henderson, who has played in four major tournaments, has earned 47 caps, while Stones has 36. In comparison, this was only Winks’ second appearance and a world away from his debut against Lithuania over a year ago, while Gomez was collecting just his fifth cap.

Neither let Southgate down. Winks had the second most touches of any England player, while the Liverpool defender looked composed in defence, adding to fine performances against Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands.

At 23, there is also the promise that Sterling – one of the side’s most experienced performers as he closes in on his 50th cap – and Marcus Rashford, 20, who has scored three goals in his past four starts, can offer a speedy foil to Kane.

“The squad is fresher, it’s younger, the players believe in Southgate, there’s something different about this squad but we’ve still got good players like Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard to come back,” said Butcher.

So where does this win rank?

While this is undoubtedly the standout performance of Southgate’s England tenure, where does it rank among results from the past 18 years?

We’ve selected seven of the best since 2000 – have a go at ranking them.

Best England performance?

Rank England’s best performances since 2000

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October 15, 2018 at 04:24PM

Southgate praises ‘courage’ of England side

Southgate praises ‘courage’ of England side

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England scored with all three of their shots on target against Spain

England manager Gareth Southgate praised the “courage” of his side after they beat Spain to claim their first Uefa Nations League victory.

The 3-2 loss was Spain’s first at home in a competitive match for 15 years.

A superb first-half showing from England produced two goals from Raheem Sterling and one from Marcus Rashford, with Spain responding through Paco Alcacer and Sergio Ramos.

Southgate said his side “showed quality” and were “brave”.

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.”

‘Players took a step further’

England lost 2-1 at home to Spain in their Nations League opener and were held to a goalless draw in Croatia last time out, but they put on a brilliant display in Seville.

The Three Lions became the first team to put three goals past Spain in a competitive home international, and won in the country for the first time since 1987.

Southgate, whose side reached the semi-finals at the World Cup in the summer, also named the youngest England team this century.

Former Middlesbrough manager Southgate said: “It’s a great reference for them – when you’re a young player you need wins and positive experiences to refer to, to give you confidence for the future.

“They have to take tremendous belief from that. We won’t get carried away – we still conceded two goals – but it will give them huge belief.”

Asked about the ‘statement’ victory over a major side he had sought, Southgate replied: “It’s one less question we have to answer. There’ll be something else. Tonight the players have gone a step further which is fantastic for them.”

‘Forget about looking nice, just cause havoc’

Sterling was criticised for his performances for England at the World Cup

Manchester City winger Sterling converted a low finish and tapped in from close range to end a run of 1,825 minutes and 27 games without scoring for England.

He told BBC Radio 5 live: “It’s an incredible night. The boys showed real confidence to go out there against a really good side and not just play, to compete. We had a good World Cup and could have done even better but we are going in the right direction.

“I haven’t scored for a while for England so it was frustration, all the pressure, it all comes out in the celebration. There is nothing better than scoring in an England shirt. We showed energy, effort and courage to get on the ball.

“As a forward you go through patches but I am forgetting about looking nice, getting in behind and causing havoc.”

England goals incredible – analysis

Former England captain Terry Butcher on BBC Radio 5 live

Yes we have been here before [with a good performance] but it’s how we move on from this now. I think it’s different to the win in Berlin in 2016.

The squad is fresher, it’s younger. The players believe in Southgate. There’s something different about this squad but we’ve still got good players like Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard to come back and it’s great to win tonight.

England must take it forward; there’s been too many false dawns. But Gareth in particular will keep it steady and I bet he wishes he could keep the squad together and play this weekend.

The link-up between all the front three was great, the movement for the goals, but they defended as a three so well – you defend from the front. Rashford and Sterling cut off the full-backs and that left Kane up front who outmuscled the Spanish defenders numerous times.

There was such good link-up as you saw in the quality of the goals England scored – they were all incredible. If Spain had scored them we’d have raved about them for years.

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October 15, 2018 at 03:36PM

Living the American dream: Players who own teams Stateside

Living the American dream: Players who own teams Stateside

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When a footballers’ career eventually comes to an end they’re spoilt for choice of what they could do next.

Some will transition into punditry, others try their hand at management.

While some former players such as the Class of 92 decided to invest their time and money more locally, a select few have opted to head Stateside.

With the MLS attracting more marque names year by year, they’re one of world footballs most blossoming markets.

Looking to join America’s soccer revolution, who are the superstars that have decided to start their very own American franchise:

1. David Beckham – Inter Miami

Signing for LA Galaxy back in 2007, David Beckham’s arrival in the MLS was seen as the flame that lit the US soccer revolution.

11 years on and the former England captain is not done with Major League Soccer yet.

The most notable owner on this list, Beckham was offered the chance to own an MLS expansion side upon his arrival in Los Angeles.

After finally hanging up his boots with PSG, in 2014 the 43-year-old exercised his $25million option and Internacional de Futbol Miami was born.

Needless to say, some of footballs biggest names have been linked with a move to America’s latest franchise.

However, there have been some issues behind the scenes that have backdated their proposed start in 2017.

Suffering a number of setbacks regarding planning permission for their new stadium, they are still waiting to finalise a deal in downtown Miami.

Beckham is now hoping that Inter Miami will be installed into the MLS at the start of the 2020 campaign.

While it hasn’t been plain sailing for the 115-cap England international, Miami’s latest franchise have unveiled the sides new logo.

2. Paolo Maldini – Miami FC

While many will be excused for believing that Beckham is the first man to bring football to Miami, they would in fact be wrong.

Back in 2015, one of Beckham’s former teammates at AC Milan, Paolo Maldini, was announced as the new owner of North American Soccer League (NASL) side Miami FC.

Along with working as the co-owner alongside business partner Riccardo Silva, Maldini has also been announced as the development director at the San Siro.

“Miami has been my second home for 15 years, so I look forward to spending more and more time here as co-owner of Miami FC, giving my enthusiastic contribution for its success”

After spending over two decades with Rossoneri, Maldini had some powerful connections who were willing to help Miami’s first franchise.

Italian compatriot Alessandro Nesta took charge at the Riccardo Silva Stadium for just over two campaigns and even led Miami to victory in both the Spring and Fall season of the NASL last year.

However, Maldini’s side are somewhat stuck in limbo following the cancellation of the NASL league for the 2018 season.

The franchise have recently created Miami FC 2 and currently compete in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).

Transferring almost their entire roster from the NASL side, Maldini hopes that Miami FC will return to action sooner rather than later.

Didier Drogba

LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 24: Didier Drogba of Chelsea poses for photographs after the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 24, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

3. Didier Drogba – Phoenix Rising

While English football may be accustomed to seeing the odd player/manager, Didier Drogba took it one step further in April 2017.

Along with being named as the marquee signing for USL side Phoenix Rising, he was also unveiled as a part owner of the Arizona based franchise.

The 106-cap Ivory Coast international also secured his position as the first player/owner in history.

Much like Maldini had at Miami, Drogba was not short of contacts who were willing to come and play both under and alongside the former Chelsea striker.

In February 2017, Phoenix announced the arrival of former England international Shaun Wright-Phillips on a season-long deal.

As for the five-time Premier League winners personal record for PRFC, Drogba netted 13 goals and grabbed four assists in his 21 appearances.

With his contract as a player coming to an end, the 40-year-old played his last game for Phoenix in their 1-0 loss to Portland Timbers reserves over the weekend.

However, Chelsea’s second-leading goalscorer did manage to lead Phoenix to a third-place finish in the Western Conference and secured their playoff position.

Drogba hopes that PRFC will secure a spot in the MLS within the next two years.

4. Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye and Moussa Sow – San Diego 1904

While all four players are still plying their trade across the globe, they all appear to be looking to the future.

In June 2017 it was announced that a four-player consortium led by Demba Ba had created San Diego’s first footballing franchise.

However, much like the others on this list, Ba and his colleagues have not been without the odd bump in the road.

It was originally hoped that San Diego would be starting the 2018 season in the North American Soccer League.

Sadly for their superstar owners, the NASL was canceled and due to time restraints their appeal to join the USL was rejected.

After being without a league for some time, 1904 has now been announced as the first side to join a proposed Division III league starting next season.

Ba, who now plays his football for Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua, currently owns 35% of San Diego.

With the combined stakes of Eden Hazard, Moussa Sow and Yohan Cabaye means their consortium is the majority owner.

Also see:

Maurizio Sarri adamant Eden Hazard will remain at Chelsea beyond 2020

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October 15, 2018 at 03:33PM

Gossip: Olympic sprinter Bolt offered pro contract by Maltese club

Gossip: Olympic sprinter Bolt offered pro contract by Maltese club

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Eight-time Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt, 32, has been offered a two-year contract with Maltese club Valletta FC. (ESPN)