Tag Archives: aplomb

Norwich 0 Chelsea 1: Juan Mata scores winner at Carrow Road

Norwich 0 Chelsea 1: Mata strike sees off Canaries for third straight win

PUBLISHED:

16:58 GMT, 26 December 2012

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UPDATED:

17:42 GMT, 26 December 2012

Juan Mata's first-half strike was enough to secure all three points for Chelsea as they beat Norwich in a game of little quality at Carrow Road.

The win moves the Blues to within four points of second-placed Manchester City in the Barclays Premier League table but it was only a fantastic effort seven minutes from half-time that separated the two sides.

Mata, who scored his sixth goal in eight games with aplomb, also missed a good opportunity with the scoreline 0-0 while Norwich had decent spells of possession but were too blunted in attack to ever truly test Petr Cech.

Beauty: Mata broke the deadlock seven minutes before half-time with a long-range effort

Beauty: Mata broke the deadlock seven minutes before half-time with a long-range effort

Delight: Mata celebrates his goal with Ashley Cole

Delight: Mata celebrates his goal with Ashley Cole

Match facts

Norwich:
Bunn, Martin, Turner, Bassong, Garrido, Snodgrass, Tettey, Johnson (Howson 82), Pilkington (Morison
78), Hoolahan (Elliott Bennett 88), Holt.

Subs Not Used: Rudd, Jackson, Barnett, Ryan
Bennett.

Booked: Johnson.

Chelsea:
Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole, Mikel (Lampard 73), Luiz, Moses (Hazard
78), Oscar, Mata (Ake 90), Torres.

Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Marin, Piazon.

Booked: Hazard.

Goal: Mata 38.

Att: 26,831

Ref: Jon Moss (W Yorkshire).

Latest Premier League table and results

Neither side dominated the opening 15
minutes, which saw both Rafael Benitez and Chris Hughton emerge from
their respective dugouts and bark orders from the touchline.

Norwich conceded possession a little
too readily in Chelsea's half during the early exchanges but the
Canaries were not punished by the visitors.

Chelsea only had two long-rang
efforts from David Luiz in the opening 25 minutes and both were fired
high and wide by the Brazilian.

The hosts were happy to let Chelsea
have possession around the halfway line with only captain Grant Holt,
recalled following a hamstring problem, remaining upfield for Hughton's
side.

Chelsea were almost ahead after 30
minutes as Luiz robbed Wes Hoolahan of the ball before picking out Mata,
who shot into the side-netting when well placed.

Luiz was involved again moments later
as he squared the ball on the edge of the box to John Obi Mikel, whose
thundering drive rose just over Mark Bunn's crossbar.

The sustained spell of Chelsea
pressure eventually paid off and it was Mata who opened the goalscoring
in style. The Spain international cut in from the left before letting
fly with an effort from 25 yards that flew past Bunn.

Star man: The gifted Spaniard scored the only goal in a game of little quality

Star man: The gifted Spaniard scored the only goal in a game of little quality

Closing the gap: Chelsea moved closer to Manchester City, who lost to Sunderland

Closing the gap: Chelsea moved closer to Manchester City, who lost to Sunderland

Norwich winger Anthony Pilkington was
enjoying a battle with Cesar Azpilicueta and got the better of the
full-back on a number of occasions throughout the opening period.

The former Huddersfield man again
wriggled free of Azpilicueta just before the break but his cross into
the box was calmly dealt with by Ashley Cole as Chelsea held on to their
lead going into the interval.

A near-post corner at the start of
the second half almost doubled Chelsea's advantage as Oscar's set-piece
evaded everyone before Bunn reacted well to push the ball wide.

Resilient: Chelsea kept another clean sheet under Rafael Benitez

Resilient: Chelsea kept another clean sheet under Rafael Benitez

On a roll: Chelsea have won their last three games since returning from the Club World Cup in Japan

On a roll: Chelsea have won their last three games since returning from the Club World Cup in Japan

The Norwich goalkeeper was called
into action again a couple of minutes later as Azpilicueta's low cross
reached Victor Moses at the far post and the former Wigan winger forced
another smart save from Bunn.

Mata then tried to catch Bunn out
with a quickly-taken free-kick but was too far out to send the ball past
the ex-Blackburn stopper.

The weather conditions worsened during the second half and Norwich started to enjoy more of the ball in attacking positions.

Tight: There was no repeat of Chelsea's 8-0 win at the weekend as they edged past Norwich

Tight: There was no repeat of Chelsea's 8-0 win at the weekend as they edged past Norwich

Physical: It was a hard-fought encounter on Boxing Day at Carrow Road

Physical: It was a hard-fought encounter on Boxing Day at Carrow Road

They could still not force Chelsea
stand-in skipper Cech into a meaningful save but the movement of
Hoolahan and Holt started to cause problems.

Fernando Torres was struggling to get
involved in the game for Chelsea with Norwich defensive duo Sebastien
Bassong and Michael Turner handling him well.

It was Moses who again came close for
the visitors after Russell Martin missed a headed clearance and the
ball fell to the feet of the Nigeria international who fired a shot wide
of the post.

The travelling Chelsea contingent had
been singing the name of Frank Lampard for the majority of the game and
Benitez introduced the 34-year-old with 17 minutes remaining.

Blank: Fernando Torres wasn't on the score-sheet despite his recent form

Blank: Fernando Torres wasn't on the score-sheet despite his recent form

Looking up: Rafa endured a tough start at Stamford Bridge but the Blues have won their last three league matches

Looking up: Rafa endured a tough start at Stamford Bridge but the Blues have won their last three league matches

Hughton gambled with a little over 10
minutes left on the clock as he brought on a second striker in Steve
Morison, with Pilkington making way.

The change did not have the desired effect as Norwich still could not muster any clearcut chances to take a point from the game.

Chelsea substitute Eden Hazard forced
another decent save from Bunn with only a couple of minutes remaining
after being found by a deft flick from Torres, before receiving a
caution moments later for a cynical clip of Martin's heels as the
Norwich full-back looked to counter.

The resulting free-kick was almost hooked into his own goal by Cole before Bassong headed the corner over Cech's bar.

Chelsea then managed to see out a shaky last few moments to secure a valuable win.

Owen Farrell wants to play at No 10 for Saracens

Farrell wants to be a perfect 10 after wayward kicking display against Munster

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 9 December 2012

Owen Farrell fixed a kicking glitch just in time to snatch a vital bonus point for Saracens in their 15-9 defeat to Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday, then revealed he has held talks with the club over his limited access to the No 10 shirt.

Seven days after playing a central role in England’s epic win against New Zealand at Twickenham, where he ran the show at fly-half, the 21-year-old reverted to centre in Limerick.

However, when Charlie Hodgson was replaced during the second half of this blood-and-thunder encounter, Farrell carried out the conductor’s duties with considerable aplomb, in a late rally by the visitors.

Tough day: Owen Farrell's kicking form was erratic for Saracens

Tough day: Owen Farrell's kicking form was erratic for Saracens

It would be in the national interest
for him to play regularly at stand-off, rather than at outside centre,
but he has started just four games there for Saracens this season. ‘I
want to do my job for the club, first and foremost,’ said Farrell.

‘I’ve had a sit-down with Mark
(McCall, director of rugby) and we’ve put a plan in place. I will play
some games at 10 and some at centre, but I don’t think it really matters
because when I play at centre at the club; I’m playing like a second
fly-half anyway.’

Farrell’s goal-kicking was wayward at
Thomond Park, with a final return of three out of seven. The last miss,
from a promising position five minutes from time, suggested Saracens
would leave Ireland with nothing, but when another chance came with a
minute to go, Farrell scored to ensure his side took a point to go into
the return tie at Vicarage Road on Sunday tied with Munster at the top
of Pool One.

Showdown: Farrell (left) admitted to holding talks with the club

Showdown: Farrell (left) admitted to holding talks with the club

Raheem Sterling is proving his worth at Liverpool

Rodgers banks on value of Sterling as youngster nets first Liverpool goal

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UPDATED:

21:47 GMT, 21 October 2012

One of football’s biggest stages already looks like the perfect home for Raheem Sterling’s dazzling skills, but the screen is proving a different matter.

Less than 24 hours before capping another impressive performance with a match- winning goal, Anfield’s teenage prodigy was being taken to task by Brendan Rodgers on the Channel Five documentary Being: Liverpool.

The series started with Rodgers interrupting a pre- season training ground pep-talk in America, fixing Sterling with an icy glare and telling him: ‘Say steady to me again, and you’ll be on the first plane home.’

Golden goal: Raheem Sterling is congratulated after his goal

Golden goal: Raheem Sterling is congratulated after his goal

In Friday night’s instalment, there was a half-time rebuke for the 17-year-old for over- elaborating in the 2-2 home draw with Manchester City.

If those TV transgressions suggest Liverpool’s England Under 21 winger may be trouble, nothing could be further from the truth, according to Rodgers.

Reflecting on Sterling becoming the second youngest top-flight scorer in Liverpool history, and the televised ticking-off that preceded it, the Anfield manager opened up on his methods for keeping him in check.

Red leaves them dead: Sterling outpaced the Reading defence and blasted home with aplomb

Red leaves them dead: Sterling outpaced the Reading defence and blasted home with aplomb

‘You could call it tough love with Raheem, but I always offer the players the carrot, because there’s no-one in this world who responds to being beaten with a stick all the time,’ he said. ‘That’s the case in any industry, football or whatever, but Raheem is the type who likes you to be direct.

‘He likes to be told. He is a great boy, a really good kid. His mum does a great job with him, and he handles everything about the situation really well.

‘At 17, he’s still got an awful long way to go, so it’s important I try to manage him properly. We want to have him here as a legend for many years. We don’t want him getting carried away with all the adulation and then find, at 21, he’s washed up and everyone wants him out.

Give youth a chance: Sterling scored his first goal for Liverpool to secure a vital home win

Give youth a chance: Sterling scored his first goal for Liverpool to secure a vital home win

‘The biggest thing with me is just maintaining the hunger that he’s got now, because you see when he’s got that, and he’s learning and developing, that he can be a really top player. It’s a long way to go for him but, up to now, he’s been a revelation.

At the moment there are no worries about how he is responding. I talk to the players a lot about the good and the bad and just try to keep them developing.

‘Right up until now, Raheem has been brilliant. He’s got a lovely way about him. He’s made the transition from the academy very well, and it’s brilliant for the supporters, because they love to see young players come in and do so well. We will be doing our utmost to make sure that it continues.’

Sterling’s crisp finish may have secured Liverpool’s first home Barclays Premier League win of the season, but the biggest cheer of the afternoon went to referee Roger East’s decision to award Luis Suarez a free-kick on the edge of the area in the 38th minute.

After the number of times Suarez has looked up in vain at an official after hitting the deck, it was greeted with a prolonged standing ovation.

‘That was brilliant,’ said Rodgers. ‘I must admit I had a nice laugh and I think it lifted the players as well.

‘It was one of those funny moments you won’t forget in a hurry. Was I tempted to join in I think I probably did!

Darren Bent warned he could be dropped by Paul Lambert

Lambert warns Bent he could be dropped with Villa striking rivals in fine form

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UPDATED:

21:00 GMT, 28 September 2012

Darren Bent has been warned that his 24m price tag is no protection against the axe.

Aston Villa's club record signing heads into Saturday's derby with fourth-placed West Brom with doubts about his place following Gabriel Agbonlahor's two-goal show at the Etihad Stadium.

Agbonlahor seized the opportunity to partner Villa's new 8m signing Christian Benteke against Manchester City with aplomb.

Threat: Darren Bent's place is not set in stone

Threat: Darren Bent's place is not set in stone

With Bent having scored twice in five appearances so far this season, the England international finds himself under pressure for his place.

The striker was omitted from Roy Hodgson's last squad and manager Paul Lambert says that the fact Villa have spent so much money on Bent does not mean he is an automatic choice.

'Everyone is in the same boat here,' said the Scot, 'I've got no favourites. I have a group of players I trust, no matter who I play.

'It doesn't matter to me who is worth what. It's about who performs on a given day or who is performing. We have to get a winning team.

'I'm trying to create a vibe where if you don't perform, there's someone there. It's the only way to get the best out of people.

'And from what I've seen so far this season, Gabby is an absolute handful. For him, the secret will be sustaining that.

'The other night, he was excellent. He is adaptable and he can do that. But once he gets his head down with the ball in front of him, there's not too many who can stop him.

Stake a claim: Gabriel Agbonlahor is in impressive form

Stake a claim: Gabriel Agbonlahor is in impressive form

'What finishes his game off is the goals, like the two he scored the other night.'

Lambert spent 8m to secure Benteke – a forward who created a good impression on his full debut and against top-quality defenders against Manchester City.

It could be that he throws all three of his forwards into the side to face his erstwhile St Mirren team-mate Steve Clarke's Baggies on Sunday.

Tussle: Christian Benteke is also trying to make his case

Tussle: Christian Benteke is also trying to make his case

'Gabby could play with Bent,' added Lambert, 'I don't think there is a problem with that. They are both very good players.

'And we finished the game against Southampton with Gabby, Darren and Christian on the pitch, so I've got that option as well. If it's one I think is right for Sunday, I could do that.'

Wimbledon 2012: Andy Murray in Final after beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Magic Murray makes history! Andy becomes first British man in Wimbledon final for 74 years after four set victory over Tsonga to set up final showdown with Federer

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UPDATED:

18:35 GMT, 6 July 2012

Andy Murray became the first British player in 74 years to reach the men's singles final at Wimbledon with a dramatic fourth-set victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

For two sets it looked like the Scot would have no trouble assigning 1938 runner-up Bunny Austin's name to history, but Tsonga fought back and it was with relief and delight that Murray sealed a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory.

The 25-year-old will face Roger Federer in Sunday's final, looking to win his first grand slam title at his fourth attempt and become the first home player to lift the men's singles trophy at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.

Relief: Andy Murray points to the sky after winning the match

Relief: Andy Murray points to the sky after winning the match

Battle: The fourth set was an epic tussle

Battle: The fourth set was an epic tussle

There was no doubt the Scot went into the match as the favourite having beaten Tsonga in five of their six previous meetings, including in the quarter-finals here two years ago.

The Frenchman, though, has been a consistent improver and beat Federer in the last eight at Wimbledon 12 months ago from two sets down, the first man ever to do so against the Swiss at a grand slam.

Applause: Murray laps up the adulation of the fans

Applause: Murray laps up the adulation of the fans

Tough luck: Murray and Jo-Wilfried Songa in conversation after the match

Tough luck: Murray and Jo-Wilfried Songa in conversation after the match

Murray began confidently and aggressively, and made the best possible start with a break in Tsonga's first service game, nailing a backhand down the line.

The Frenchman had started slowly but he began to find his form and forced Murray to save two break points in the fifth game, which he did with aplomb and then fired down two aces to move 4-1 ahead.

Crucial: Andy Murray celebrates winning a vital game

Crucial: Andy Murray celebrates winning a vital game

Good start: Murray got off to a fine opening

Good start: Murray got off to a fine opening

ROGER FEDERER v ANDY MURRAY

7 Head-to-head 8

30 Age 25

Birthplace

Basel, Switzerland Dunblane, Scotland

6'1″ Height 6'3″

187lbs (85 kg) Weight 185lbs (84 kg)

1998 Turned Pro 2005

39/6 This year Won/Lost 26/9

846/192 Career Won/Lost 349/116

74 Career Titles 22

46m Career Prize Money 13.3m

And he held his advantage to take the set, bringing up set point with a crunching forehand down the line and then clinching it with a simple winner.

At that stage, it was a far cry from the extreme tension of Murray's four-hour win over David Ferrer on Wednesday, let alone his previous semi-finals here against Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal.

Only Tim Henman has ever lost his first four semi-finals at the All England Club, and Murray wanted to keep it that way.

The fourth seed's serve, such a weapon all fortnight, was again proving a reliable ally, and he was also getting plenty of balls back in play off the Tsonga delivery.

The Frenchman's serve had only been broken four times in the tournament before this match, but Murray got his reward for more excellent play in the fifth game of the second set, moving 3-2 ahead when Tsonga drilled a forehand wide, and once again a single break was enough.

New balls please: Tsonga was hit in a delicate area by a Murray shot

New balls please: Tsonga was hit in a delicate area by a Murray shot

Rally: Murray and Tsonga in action

Rally: Murray and Tsonga in action

The statistics showed just what a superb performance it had been from Murray.

In the first two sets he hit 21
winners and made only four unforced errors, while Tsonga won just two
points against serve in the whole of the second set.

It was all too easy, this was a
Wimbledon semi-final after all, and victory seemed a little further away
when Murray's level dropped for the first time in the second game of
the third set and Tsonga broke to love.

The 27-year-old was throwing
everything he had at Murray, and, although he missed a chance to move
4-0 ahead, his serve was working very well now and he denied his
opponent a break back.

History: Tsonga beat this year's finalist Roger Federer in a thriller last time around

History: Tsonga beat this year's finalist Roger Federer in a thriller last time around

Tumble: Murray reacts to a fall during the match

Tumble: Murray reacts to a fall during the match

Murray had lifted his game again but
the damage was already done and Tsonga took the set despite being
momentarily felled by a shot from his opponent drilled right into a
delicate area.

A shout of 'New balls please' from someone in the crowd caused much mirth, although Tsonga was not laughing.

The start of the fourth set was huge
for both players, and it was Murray who made the first move, breaking
for a 3-1 lead and moving to within touching distance of the final.

Tsonga was not done yet, though, playing some stunning points to break back immediately.

He was the last Frenchman to beat
Murray at a grand slam, in the first round of the Australian Open in
2008 when he went on to reach his first grand slam final.

Onlooker: Murray's girlfriend Kim Sears

Onlooker: Murray's girlfriend Kim Sears

Oops: Tsonga was making several unforced errors

Oops: Tsonga was making several unforced errors

A second final for Tsonga was still a
long way away though, and Murray had two points for a 5-3 lead when his
opponent, who had volleyed so well, dumped a regulation ball in the
net.

He could not take the chances,
though, twice ending up on the grass, first through a slip and then a
diving volley that landed wide.

It was a big chance, and Murray knew it. Suddenly he looked tight, and Tsonga brought up two break points of his own.

Packed: Fans crowded on 'Murray Mount'

Packed: Fans crowded on 'Murray Mount'

Thrilled: Fans enjoyed an exciting match

Thrilled: Fans enjoyed an exciting match

The fourth seed was not helped by a
poor line call on a big first serve but his opponent charitably blazed
two shots over the baseline and again Murray held on.

The winners had dried up, but Murray
piled on the pressure with Tsonga serving at 6-5 behind, moving to
love-30, and soon he had two match points when the Frenchman netted a
volley.

There was a deafening roar inside Centre Court, and Murray looked to have taken his chance with a brilliant forehand return.

Dramatically, it was called out, but
HawkEye showed it to be in and the Scot, almost overcome with emotion,
looked up at the sky as he took in his achievement.

Comeback: Tsonga refused to give in after a poor start

Comeback: Tsonga refused to give in after a poor start

Blue sky: The roof was opened before the game

Blue sky: The roof was opened before the game

ANDY MURRAY FACTFILE

1987: Born May 15, Dunblane, Scotland.
1999: December – Wins junior Orange Bowl title in Miami.
2004: September – Becomes first British winner of US Open boys' title, beating Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky.
2005: March – Becomes youngest British Davis Cup player, aged 17, in match against Israel.
June – Defeats Radek Stepanek to become first Scot to reach third round at Wimbledon. Loses to David Nalbandian.
October – Reaches first ATP final at Thailand Open, losing to Roger Federer.
2006: February 20 – Claims first ATP title by beating Lleyton Hewitt in San Jose.
February 28 – Moves above Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski in rankings to become British number one.
April 14 – Splits from coach Mark Petchey.
July 3 – Loses to Marcos Baghdatis in fourth round at Wimbledon.
July 26 – American Brad Gilbert appointed Murray's new coach.

Strong: Murray played the first two sets superbly

2007: January 22 – Loses five-set thriller to Rafael Nadal in Australian Open fourth round.
February 18 – Defends San Jose title with victory over Ivo Karlovic.
October 28 – Wins St Petersburg Open, beating Fernando Verdasco.
November 14 – Splits with coach Gilbert.
2008: January 5 – Beats Stanislas Wawrinka to win Qatar Open.
February 17 – Wins Open 13 tournament in Marseille, beating Mario Ancic.
July 2 – Loses to Nadal in Wimbledon quarter-finals.
August 3 – Defeats Novak Djokovic in Cincinnati to claim first Masters Series title.
August 12 – Suffers first-round defeat by Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei at Beijing Olympics.
September 7 – Beats top seed Nadal in semi-finals of US Open to reach first grand slam final.
September 8 – Beaten 6-2 7-5 6-2 by defending champion Federer in US Open final.
September 21 – Wins his singles matches but Great Britain lose to Austria to be relegated from Davis Cup World Group.
October 19 – Wins Madrid Masters with victory over Gilles Simon.
October 26 – Wins St Petersburg Open, beating Kazakhstan's Andrey Golubev.
2009: January 11 – Wins Qatar Open, beating Andy Roddick.
February 15 – Wins ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, beating Nadal.
March – Wins Miami Masters, beating Djokovic.
May 11 – Overtakes Djokovic to become world number three.
June 2 – Loses to Fernando Gonzalez in French Open quarter-finals.
June 14 – Becomes first British player since 1938 to win Queen's Club title, beating James Blake in the final.
July 3 – Reaches first Wimbledon semi-final but loses 6-4 4-6 7-6 7-6 to Roddick.
August 16 – Wins Montreal Masters with victory over Juan Martin Del Potro, and becomes world number two.
November 8 – Wins comeback event in Valencia after wrist injury. Later finishes year at world number four.

Murray waits to hear about the final point

2010: January 31 – Loses 6-3 6-4 7-6 to Federer in Australian Open final.
May 30 – Beaten by Tomas Berdych in French Open fourth round.
July 2 – Loses Wimbledon semi-final 6-4 7-6 6-4 to Nadal.
July 27 – Splits with coach Miles Maclagan after two and a half years.
August 15 – Beats Nadal and Federer as he defends his Masters title in Toronto.
October 17 – Beats Federer in final to win Shanghai Masters.
November 27 – Loses 7-6 3-6 7-6 to Nadal after more than three hours in a classic semi-final at ATP World Tour Finals in London.
2011: January 30 – Beaten 6-4 6-2 6-3 by Djokovic in Australian Open final.
June 3 – Loses 6-4 7-5 6-4 to eventual champion Nadal in French Open semi-final.
June 13 – Beats Tsonga to win AEGON Championships at Queen's Club.
July 1 – Loses 5-7 6-2 6-2 6-4 against Nadal in Wimbledon semi-final.
August 21 – Wins Western & Southern Open crown in Cincinnati when world number one Novak Djokovic retires injured when trailing 6-4 3-0.
September 10 – Loses 6-4 6-2 3-6 6-2 to Rafael Nadal in US Open semi-final.
September 18 – Helps Great Britain win Davis Cup promotion with a 5-0 victory over Hungary in Glasgow.

Waiting on the call

October 2 – Beats American Donald Young 6-2 6-0 in Thailand Open final.
October 9 – Beats Nadal 3-6 6-2 6-0 to win Japan Open final.
October 16 – Completes hat-trick of tournament victories by beating David Ferrer 7-5 6-4 in Shanghai Masters final, to take him above Federer and to number three in world rankings.
November 22 – Pulls out of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals with a groin injury. Federer's victory in the tournament takes him back to world number three.
December 31 – Hires eight-time grand slam winner Ivan Lendl as his new coach.
2012: January 27 – Loses 6-3 3-6 6-7 6-1 7-5 to Djokovic in epic Australian Open semi-final lasting four hours and 50 minutes.
June 6 – Murray's French Open run ends in the quarter-finals with defeat by David Ferrer.
July 6 – Reaches Wimbledon final for the first time with 6-3 6-4 3-6 7-5 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Derby 0 Leicester 1: Neil Danns nets the winner

Derby 0 Leicester 1: Danns the main man as Foxes continue to climb

Neil Danns rediscovered his scoring touch to settle a keenly contested East Midlands derby and lift Leicester above his old club Crystal Palace at Pride Park.

The 29-year-old midfielder had scored only twice in 22 previous Championship appearances but threatened to make up for lost time as he peppered the Derby goal in the first half.

A lightning break down the left by Lloyd Dyer set up a 16th-minute chance that was finished with aplomb, as Danns stole in at the far post to meet the winger’s cross with a first-time volley.

Goal hero: Leicester's goalscorer Neil Danns celebrates at the final whistle

Goal hero: Leicester's goalscorer Neil Danns celebrates at the final whistle

Hard fought win: Leicester City's Jermaine Beckford holds off challenge from Derby County's Shaun Barker

Hard fought win: Leicester City's Jermaine Beckford holds off challenge from Derby County's Shaun Barker

MATCH FACTS

Derby: Fielding, Green, Barker, Shackell, Roberts, Ward, Bryson (Robinson 81), Hendrick, Carroll, Ball (Steve Davies 76), Tyson.

Subs Not Used: Legzdins, Buxton, Naylor.

Booked: Ward.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Peltier (Bamba 72), Morgan, St. Ledger, Konchesky, Marshall (Drinkwater 79), Danns, Wellens, Dyer, Beckford (Delfouneso 72), Nugent.

Subs Not Used: Howard, Kennedy.

Booked: Danns, Morgan.

Goals: Danns 16.

Attendance: 28,205

Referee: Simon Hooper

The warning signs were there, but
Derby failed to heed them, as Danns continued to exploit acres of space
and went close with two more long-range efforts. Frank Fielding tipped
the first on to a post and was at full stretch again to keep out the
second.

Derby raised the tempo in the second
half but could have few complaints about the outcome and might easily
have ended further adrift, after a strong Leicester finish.

David Nugent dragged a close-range
chance narrowly wide, and Dyer somehow rattled the bar from six yards
after Fielding had blocked his initial shot.

Leicester are still eight points
below the play-offs but manager Nigel Pearson said: ‘People look at the
table and assume only certain teams will be involved in the shake-up,
but I would never write us off. I was pleased with our performance, and
all we can do is focus on producing more of the same.’

Dylan Hartley signs new Northampton Saints deal to 2015

Northampton skipper Hartley handed new Saints deal up to 2015

England hooker Dylan Hartley has signed a new deal to keep him with Northampton until at least 2015.

The 25-year-old has been with Saints since arriving from Worcester in 2005 and has captained them with aplomb since 2009.

He has guided them to consecutive appearances in the Aviva Premiership semi-finals as well as last season”s Heineken Cup final.

Captain: Hartley has led the Saints proudly since 2009

Captain: Hartley has led the Saints proudly since 2009

Hartley said: “I”m delighted and very happy to be staying at the Saints. I”ve played all my professional rugby here, the club”s a big part of my life and I”m happy to continue that.”

Hartley has made 144 appearances for the Franklin”s Gardens outfit, scoring 15 tries, and the increasing maturity he has showed has also seen him establish himself as an England regular.

The New Zealand-born forward has won 34 caps and started every game of England”s Six Nations title success earlier this year, although the now-retired Steve Thompson was Martin Johnson”s first choice during the Red Rose”s awful World Cup campaign.

Pleased: Jim Mallinder is glad Hartley has signed a new deal

Pleased: Jim Mallinder is glad Hartley has signed a new deal

And with another three seasons lying ahead of him in the east Midlands, Hartley is keen to build on the success he has already experienced with Jim Mallinder”s side.

He said: “I”ve got a lot of ambition for myself and for the team and want to keep cracking on and I know that I need to keep improving as a player as we”ve got several good hookers at the club who all want to be playing first team rugby and are knocking on the door.

“The Heineken Cup run last year is an obvious highlight of my time here so far, and Division One was good fun, too.

“But my whole time here has been a great experience and a learning curve. I”ve grown up here and it”s a home away from home.”

Hartley has followed the example of England team-mate Ben Foden in putting pen to paper on a new deal, and rugby director Mallinder believes there is plenty more to come from his skipper.

“Even though he is just 25 years old Dylan is one of our senior players, and we”re now just starting to see him grow into his position as captain,” he said.

Ambitious: Hartley is keen to build on his success

Ambitious: Hartley is keen to build on his success

“He leads the team from the front and never takes a backward step. He is very motivated to make the team succeed and bring the best out of the other players in the squad.

“He is also determined to keep improving as a player. Twenty-five is still young for a front rower, and while Dylan is established in the Premiership and at international level there is plenty for him to learn.

“So we think the best is yet to come from him, and we”re delighted that he will be getting better as part of the Saints squad over the next three years.”

Ronaldo teams up with Neymar in Zico charity match

Neymar forms little-and-large partnership with Brazil legend Ronaldo

No matter how many Christmas calories you”ve consumed, chances are you”re probably still not as wide as the former superstar Brazilian Ronaldo.

Sadly, you”re probably not as good at football either – despite his waistline, which seems to be expanding exponentially, he starred in a charity match organised by another Samba boys star, the great Zico.

The rotund ex-Barcelona striker teamed up with current hot-shot Neymar on the side “Friends of Zico”, to put the “Stars of Brazil” to the sword.

Little and large: Is Ronaldo (left) as wide as Neymar (right) is tall

Little and large: Is Ronaldo (left) as wide as Neymar (right) is tall

Fun: the strikers gorged on a 7-5 victory

Fun: the strikers gorged on a 7-5 victory

Neymar has been heavily linked with the Catalan side himself, but instead of teaming up with Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp, he made do with another legend.

It was a good time for (goal) gluttons, as there was a veritable feast of strikes, with Ronaldo and Neymar”s side running out 7-5 winners – or walking out in some cases.

Ronaldo rolled back the years to score a penalty in the 8th minute with aplomb; his “little and large” partnership with Neymar was productive – though the latter”s athletic wizardry certainly helped.

Lethal: Ronaldo is still predatory in front of goal...

Lethal: Ronaldo is still predatory in front of goal…

... but is probably just as prolific at the buffet table

… but is probably just as prolific at the buffet table

The match at Sao Paolo”s Morumbi Stadium, in front of over 35,000 specators, saw Brazilian players from various generations enjoy some pitch time, including Junior, Edmundo and Ailton and Djaminha.

Onefamous Brazilian was sadly absent – Socrates died in early December – but his brother Rai was present to see his sibling honoured at the match.

Meaty: Zico is the filling in the Ronaldo and Neymar sandwich

Meaty: Zico is the filling in the Ronaldo and Neymar sandwich