England beat Malta 2-0 in woeful Wembley affair as Welsh and Irish hopes of Euro 2024 qualification bite the dust
With the final international break of the calendar year rolling around, punters and bookies look to have ended up even-stevens following a weekend lacking in domestic football action.
A 2-0 win for England over Malta on Friday night left a lot to be desired, with an own goal and a Harry Kane strike enough to eek past the Mediterranean minnows.
While there were some surprises in Europe, with Kosovo holding the Swiss to a 1-1 draw, the absurdity of the break was compounded by France’s 14-0 demolition of Gibraltar.
As England snapped up three points, the other Home Nations did not fare as well.
Wales’ qualification dreams seem all but over after a 1-1 draw away to Armenia while Northern Ireland’s torrid time continued with a 4-0 loss to Finland.
Scotland, already qualified for next year’s tournament in Germany, drew 3-3 with Norway while Ireland fell to a narrow 1-0 loss to the Netherlands.
Kindred Group’s Ali Gill said: “The dreaded international break returned again as we all had to sit and suffer with no top-level football for the final time this year.
“Topping the turnover charts was Netherlands’ narrow 1-0 win over Republic of Ireland. Despite Netherlands coming out ahead, the scoreline meant it was a great result for the book, coming in as our best of the weekend.
“England’s drab 2-0 win over Malta on Friday pretty much summed up the break as a whole in terms of excitement levels, but despite Harry Kane getting himself on the scoresheet, England fans were expecting a whole lot more in terms of a performance and goals so that result was another strong positive for us.
“On the other hand, Scotland’s 3-3 draw with Norway was one the punters profited nicely on,” he added.
Elsewhere, in horseracing, Cheltenham provided a hotbed of action for the weekend as eyes turned to the Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday.
The race went to Stage Star after a heart-in-mouth stumble on the last fence was followed by a full-blown gallop up the hill to secure the win for trainer Paul Nicholls.
Betfred’s Alan Firkins said: “It was fantastic to see such great racing at Cheltenham, and the punters generally held sway. ITV’s 4 Saturday races were won by well-supported faves, and Paddy Power hero Stage Star has been slashed to 9/2 from 12s for the Ryanair at the festival.
“Harry Cobden advertised his brilliance on the Nicholls’ star, sitting tight after a heart-stopping last-fence blunder.
“Fred’s legendary pushes meant three winners were attractively priced for Betfred customers – the ultra-impressive Burdett Road, now 7s for the Triumph, Springwell Bay and Baby Kate,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Cricket World Cup concluded in dramatic fashion on Sunday as Australia stunned unbeaten India in front of 100,000 spectators to win a sixth title.
In dismissing India for 240, Travis Head’s world class century meant Australia took victory with seven overs to spare.
Kindred’s Gill said: “The Cricket World Cup came to a conclusion on Sunday as hosts India were defeated by Australia.
“A mix of India’s imperious form throughout the tournament versus the value available on a strong-looking Australia side meant that punters were split, and that one came out pretty much as a draw between backers and layers.”