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From apprehensive to unstoppable… how we did it

Bernd Leno was a happy man on Monday evening.

On the same day our No 1 was crowned November Player of the Month, he starred as we came from a goal behind to end our winless run with a commanding second-half performance at West Ham United.
And he puts our upturn in form down to the impact Freddie Ljungberg has had since taking the reins as interim head coach.
"From the first day he said he wanted to see laughing faces, to see a good atmosphere," Leno said. "We had a bad time, we are all human and it is not easy. It was not like we did not try, but it just did not work.
"I do not know what the club is deciding. We only have to focus on now. Freddie is doing a very good job. The team know about his quality and the way they want to play. We want to play with possession, keep the ball and also press very high, and also with transitions.
"At half-time [on Monday] Freddie was talking and analysing. He showed us some situations that we needed to be braver. We did this. It is good feeling, we all missed the feeling. He was calm but in a very straight way.
"It was not like everyone was not trying, but you could feel that we did not play in a free way and he made us more free to play. You could see this more in the second half. After the second and the third goal you could see how we can play with more confidence. This is the real Arsenal."


West Ham United (a) - Bitesize

Copyright 2019 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source.

Arsene Wenger
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Vitor Pereira out of running for Everton manager’s job

Vitor Pereira has won league titles in Portugal, Greece and China

Vitor Pereira says he has pulled out of the running to become the new Everton manager.

The Shanghai SIPG coach was high on the Toffees' list to succeed the sacked Marco Silva on a permanent basis.

Duncan Ferguson is currently in caretaker charge.

"It's an honour and I'm grateful to be considered by a club I have so much respect for but I am still coach of SIPG and SIPG is a club close to my heart," Pereira told Sky Sports News.

"It means that in this moment I'm not in a position to make any other commitments. I need time to think and plan my future by looking at the options I have."

His fellow Portuguese Silva was sacked after 18 months in charge following the 5-2 Merseyside derby defeat by Liverpool at Anfield.

Everton still plan to appoint a permanent manager as soon as they can despite beating Chelsea 3-1 on Saturday under Ferguson.

There was informal contact to gauge the extent of sacked ex-Arsenal boss Unai Emery's interest, while Bournemouth's Eddie Howe is another manager with admirers in the Everton boardroom.

Howe, however, insists he is committed to the Cherries and is unlikely to leave mid-season - while Spaniard Marcelino is another out-of-work coach looking for a route back into football after he was sacked by Valencia earlier this season.

Former Everton manager David Moyes and Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti have also been discussed, and Pereira's announcement could bring the Scot back into contention.

Pereira, 51, led Porto to back-to-back Primeira Liga titles after stepping up from his previous role as assistant manager in 2011. He was interviewed for the Everton manager's job in 2013 before Roberto Martinez was appointed as successor to Moyes.

After a brief stint in charge of Saudi side Al-Ahli, he helped Greek club Olympiakos win a league and cup double in 2015, but unsuccessful spells followed in charge of Fenerbahce and 1860 Munich.

He took over at Shanghai SIPG in December 2017 and led them to their first league title in his first season in charge.

This news item was provided by the BBC Sport - Football website - the original link is:

Napoli 4-0 Genk: Maarten Vandevoordt, 17, concedes four in Champions League debut

Seventeen-year-old Maarten Vandevoordt was booked when he conceded the penalty, which Arkadiusz Milik converted for his hat-trick

Genk's 17-year-old goalkeeper Maarten Vandevoordt endured a horrible Champions League debut as Arkadiusz Milik's hat-trick helped Napoli into the Champions League last 16.

Vandevoordt, the youngest keeper to start a Champions League game, conceded early on when he dwelt on a backpass and Milik scored from close range.

Milik scored from Giovanni di Lorenzo's cross and completed his treble with a penalty after Vandevoordt fouled Jose Callejon before Dries Mertens converted a chipped 'Panenka' penalty late on.

In the other match in the group, Liverpool beat Red Bull Salzburg 2-0 to top Group E, with Napoli advancing as runners-up.

Genk had already been eliminated and they handed a first Champions League start to Vandevoordt, who only made his senior debut on 24 September and had featured three times for the Belgian champions this season.

At 17 years and 287 days, he became the youngest keeper in the competition, beating the previous record of Benfica's Mile Svilar, who was 18 years and 52 days old when he played against Manchester United in October 2017.

Vandevoordt conceded after only three minutes when Jhon Lucumi played it back to him, but he did not control the ball cleanly and, closed down by two Napoli players, presented it to Milik who could not miss.

Milki completed his hat-trick in only 38 minutes before Mertens' late penalty, following Casper de Norre's handball, sealed Napoli's convincing win.

Dries Mertens' late chipped penalty for Napoli's fourth helped them reach the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in three seasons

Youngest goalkeepers in Champions League

1. Maarten Vandevoordt (Genk) v Napoli, 10 December, 2019 - aged 17 years 287 days

2. Mile Svilar (Benfica) v Manchester United, 18 October, 2017 - 18y 52d

3. Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) v Olympiakos, 15 September, 1999 - 18y 118d

4. Nikolay Mihaylov (Levski Sofia) v Werder Bremen, 31 October, 2006 - 18y 125d

5. Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow) v Porto, 14 September, 2004 - 18y 159d

6. Adrian Semper (Dinamo Zagreb) v Lyon, 14 September, 2016 - 18y 245d

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Live on Sky: Birmingham vs QPR

Watch live on Sky Sports Football from 7pm on Wednesday; Kick-off is at 7.45pm

Last Updated: 10/12/19 5:15pm

Birmingham face QPR in the Sky Bet Championship on Wednesday, live on Sky Sports Football.

Team news

Birmingham will be without Jake Clarke-Salter and Dan Crowley when they face QPR in a Sky Bet Championship clash at St Andrew's on Wednesday night. On-loan Chelsea defender Clarke-Salter is out for three weeks with a shoulder injury sustained in the 3-2 win at Reading on Saturday, while midfielder Crowley picked up a hamstring injury in that game and is sidelined for two weeks.

Manager Pep Clotet at least has midfielders Fran Villalba and Gary Gardner available again. Villalba missed the game with the Royals with a slight hamstring strain, while Gardner has not played since mid-October due to a knee problem Clotet, though, remains without a number of other players, including Marc Roberts (ankle), Maikel Kieftenbeld (knee) and David Stockdale (hand).

With no fresh injury concerns, QPR boss Mark Warburton is likely to name an unchanged starting line-up. Rangers ended a seven-match winless streak with a 2-0 victory at home to Preston on Saturday, in which 21-year-old Eberechi Eze scored a brace to take his tally to nine for the season.

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Yoann Barbet has a chance of being involved as he closes in on a return after a seven-week absence with a hamstring problem. Goalkeeper Liam Kelly remains sidelined with a torn thigh muscle, while midfielder Charlie Owens is out with a knee injury.

Recent form

Birmingham's 3-2 win over Reading was their first since October 26, taking their unbeaten run to four after previous draws with Millwall, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield.

QPR's 2-0 win over ailing Preston last time out also brought their lengthy winless streak to a conclusion, coming after a 1-1 draw at Derby and a 4-0 defeat against Nottingham Forest.

Latest highlights

1:59 Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between Reading and Birmingham.

Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between Reading and Birmingham.

1:53 Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between QPR and Preston.

Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship match between QPR and Preston.

Talking point: Reality biting for Warburton's Rangers

It's no exaggeration to say that QPR were tipped as relegation candidates in the early part of the season, but after five wins in their first eight games, those worries were extinguished after a masterclass from Mark Warburton.

It proved to be temporary, with their defence leaking goals on a weekly basis and a winless run that spanned later October and the entire month of November. Beating Preston 2-0 at the weekend brought that miserable streak to an unexpected end, but if Rangers slip back into their old ways, it could prove to be just a one off.

Opta stats

Birmingham City are looking to win consecutive league matches against QPR for the first time since October 2008 (a run of three).

QPR are unbeaten in three away league visits to Birmingham (W2 D1 L0) since losing 2-1 in October 2015.

Watch midweek Championship live on Sky

Watch every Sky Bet Championship midweek match live on Sky Sports on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Birmingham have kept just one clean sheet in their last 13 league games, a 1-0 win against Blackburn in October.

QPR's win over Preston at the weekend ended a run of seven Championship games without a victory (D3 L4). Indeed, the R's finally recorded their first league clean sheet of the campaign.

A league-high 45 per cent of Birmingham's Championship goals this season have been headers (10/22), with their 10 headed goals this season just one fewer than they managed in the whole of 2018-19.

QPR's Ilias Chair has had more shots on target without scoring than any other Championship player this season (11).

Birm'ham vs W Brom

December 14, 2019, 12:00pm

Live on

Prutton's prediction

After a long spell as caretaker boss, Pep Clotet was finally appointed by Birmingham on a permanent basis last week and he marked the occasion with a thrilling 3-2 win away at Reading. They'd drawn far too many games leading up to that and he'll be hoping it's something for them to build on.

QPR also got that win they were so desperate for against Preston at the weekend, which also gave them their first clean sheet after a leaky first 19 games. The clubs are in similar positions but I think Birmingham will edge this.

David Prutton predicts: 2-1 (17/2 with Sky Bet)

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Salzburg vs Liverpool LIVE: Result and latest reaction from Champions League fixture tonight

In the home dressing room on Monday afternoon, Christoph Freund did not hesitate when delivering his response. 

“Sadio Mane,” came the answer from Red Bull Salzburg’s sporting director when The Independent enquired as to the greatest player the club –  one of the premier development hubs in world football – has exported.

“He is at the highest level, he is European champion and he is the best player in the world this year. Even Messi wasn’t happy that he only finished fourth in the Ballon d’Or rankings.”

Freund also referenced Naby Keita, another former alumnus, as an example of Salzburg’s skill in spotting potential early and harnessing it superbly.

But it was that pair, who provoke so much pride at the Austrian side, who were pivotal to them crashing out of the Champions League as the European champions pulled off another late, great, group escape for a third consecutive campaign.

“It’s always nice to come back because it’s where everything started for me,” Mane said in the aftermath. “I’m grateful to everyone. Sorry, guys, but this is football.”

Two years ago, Liverpool needed to avoid getting beat by Spartak Moscow to progress and battered them 7-0. They had to overcome Napoli last season and managed a 1-0 victory in the defining game of Alisson’s Anfield career to date.

Salzburg were not lacking in confidence heading into the decisive encounter, but the visitors had the mental advantage of these experiences. And, ultimately, an overflow of class.

To borrow Jurgen Klopp’s parlance, Jesse Marsch’s charges possess “football arrogance” and why wouldn’t they given their cocktail of technical ability, tenacity and bravery on the ball? 

They were excellent, but they were also up against a relentless machine that refuse to countenance not achieving their ambitions.

It took just two minutes on Tuesday evening for the rapid, well-coached hosts to demonstrate how arduous Liverpool’s task would be and for Virgil van Dijk to showcase why he is the best defender in the world, making crucial interventions to deny Erling Haaland and Hwang Hee-Chan.

Mohamed Salah scored to make it two (Getty)

It took even less time for the Premier League leaders to remind their opponents and the rest of Europe why they are the continent’s supreme side.

With 57 minutes on the clock, Keita headed in Mane’s cross after a fine attack that featured both fullbacks to finally break the deadlock.

Sixty seconds later, Mohamed Salah, who had been swerving scoring sitters all night, served up a phenomenal finish with his weaker foot from a preposterous angle to take the game and the tournament away from Salzburg.

It was a prime Liverpool performance – nullifying dangerous opponents before knocking them out – much to the chagrin of the rest of the teams still in the Champions League.

“It was like a heavyweight fight,” Marsch said. “We punched but then they punched us twice more.”

“I couldn’t have more respect for what Salzburg are doing,” Klopp said post-match. “I really love it. But I love that my team are so smart, they listen and they put in a shift like that.”

Salzburg got schooled on the pitch and off it too, with 19-year-old Haaland learning that public overconfidence is not a good look.

The prolific striker, pursued by almost every elite club, predicted a 3-1 win for Austria’s champions, courtesy of a hat-trick for himself. 

“Haaland recognised that playing attack against van Dijk is a bit different,” Klopp piercingly put it.

Instead, the teenager will now have to do his damage in the Europa League as Liverpool plot a third consecutive final appearance.

This news item was provided by the The Independent - Premier League website - the original link is: