LONDON (AP) — Ivan Toney spent the last eight months envisioning a moment like this.
He needed just 19 minutes to make that vision a reality.
In his first game back from an eight-month ban, Toney scored from a free kick to help Brentford beat Nottingham Forest 3-2 on Saturday and end a skid of five straight Premier League losses.
“It means a lot. A long time coming," Toney said of his goal. “I manifested this (during) the time I was out, and I’m here now. I’m just buzzing to be back and scoring goals and playing for the team. ... I manifest things like this. And before I left my house I thought, ‘Yeah, we’re winning today and I’m scoring.’ And I made it happen, so it’s good.”
Toney ran straight to manager Thomas Frank to give him a hug after the Dane repeatedly spoke out in support of the England striker after he was handed his lengthy ban for breaching betting rules. Frank even gave Toney the captain's armband for this game, indicating how important his return is for the west London club. Toney led his team with 20 goals in 33 league games last season before being handed the ban in May.
“He’s a man for the big occasions," Frank said about Toney's performance. “He is. He doesn’t feel the pressure.”
There was an element of controversy around his goal, though, as Toney moved the ball half a yard to the left of the spot the referee had indicated, to create the gap to bend his free kick around the wall and inside the near post.
“It is ball displacement so VAR should intervene," Forest manager Nuno Espirito Santo said.
But there were plenty of other big moments in an eventful game at the Gtech Community Stadium.
Forest midfielder Danilo put the visitors ahead in just the third minute with a spectacular long-range volley, and the teams then combined for three goals in a 10-minute span in the second half.
Ben Mee made it 2-1 with a header from a corner in the 58th, before Chris Wood leveled for Forest with another header from a cross by Callum Hudson-Odoi in the 65th. Forest's Orel Mangala then missed a chance to put his team ahead when he shot wide just two minutes later, before Brentford went down and scored the winner at the other end.
Toney sent the ball out wide to Mads Roerslev who picked out Neal Maupay in the area, and the forward swiveled before volleying a left-footed strike inside the far post.
That secured a much-needed win for Thomas Frank’s team, which had been drawn into the relegation scrap after a run of five straight league losses but climbed above Forest and Crystal Palace into 14th place.
With the return of Toney, any thoughts of a relegation scrap for Brentford might soon be in the past.
“I’m grateful to be back playing with the lads, I’ve missed it so much,” Toney said. “Yeah, I’m back. I’m back.”
ARSENAL SCORES FIVE
A weeklong break in Dubai seems to have solved Arsenal's scoring problems.
After missing a slew of chances in recent league losses to West Ham and Fulham — and to Liverpool in the FA Cup — Arsenal was a lot more clinical in a 5-0 win over Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium.
Center back Gabriel Magalhaes was responsible for the first two goals, while fellow Brazilian Gabriel Martinelli netted the last two with near-identical finishes in second-half injury time to add gloss to the scoreline.
“We knew we needed a game like that where we had a clean sheet and scored five goals,” Martinelli said.
Gabriel headed in a corner in the 11th minute and then forced an own-goal by Palace goalkeeper Dean Henderson from another set piece delivery in the 37th. Leandro Trossard added the third after a quick counterattack in the 59th before Martinelli's late double as Arsenal climbed above Aston Villa into third in the Premier League standings. Mikel Arteta’s team cut the gap to Liverpool to two points ahead of the leader’s game at Bournemouth on Sunday.
Only two games were played Saturday with half of the Premier League's 20 teams having the weekend off for a short winter break.
Palace fell to 15th place, five points above the relegation zone. And speculation about manager Roy Hodgson’s future might intensify following the big defeat, especially with the away supporters holding up banners near the end criticizing the club's lack of direction. ___
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