Tag Archives: compatriot

Paris Saint-Germain 1 Valencia 1 (aggregate 3-2): Ezequiel Lavezzi scores

PSG 1 Valencia 1 (agg 3-2): Beckham celebrates from the bench as Lavezzi secures progression to the last eight

PUBLISHED:

21:37 GMT, 6 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

10:18 GMT, 7 March 2013

David Beckham led the celebrations as Paris Saint-Germain slugged rather than sashayed their way through to the Champions League quarter-finals after drawing with Valencia at the Parc des Princes.

It took the jolt of a fine Valencia goal from Jonas early in the second half to rouse the home side, and Ezequiel Lavezzi's equaliser secured a draw on the night and a narrow aggregate win.

It was Lavezzi's second goal of the tie after he and Javier Pastore scored in Spain three weeks ago. PSG were in full control at the Mestalla until a dramatic injury-time period saw Adil Rami pull a goal back and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off, making tonight's second leg increasingly complicated on two counts.

Just about: Ezequiel Lavezzi bundled home the equaliser before receiving a yellow card for removing his shirt

Just about: Ezequiel Lavezzi bundled home the equaliser before receiving a yellow card for removing his shirt

Just about: Ezequiel Lavezzi bundled home the equaliser before receiving a yellow card for removing his shirt

Nice tats: Lavezzi showed off his tattoos, including Jesus and compatriot Diego Maradona

Nice tats: Lavezzi showed off his tattoos, including Jesus and compatriot Diego Maradona

MATCH FACTS

Paris Saint-Germain: Sirigu, Thiago Silva, Alex, Maxwell, Matuidi, Chantome, Jallet (Van der Wiel 27), Motta (Gameiro 58), Lucas (Sakho 83) Moura, Lavezzi, Pastore

Subs not used: Douchez, Camara, Armand, Beckham

Goal: Lavezzi 66

Booked: Lavezzi

Valencia: Guaita, Cissokho, Barragan, Ruiz, Mathieu, Albelda (Banega 46), Feghouli (Piatti 63), Parejo, Facundo Costa, Jonas (Valdez 76), Soldado

Subs not used: Diego Alves, Joao Pereira, Guardado, Canales

Booked: Ruiz, Albelda, Soldado, Parejo

Goal: Jonas 55

Referee: Milorad Mazic

Ibrahimovic was given a two-match ban
by UEFA, and the Sweden striker was certainly missed on the field for
this return leg as he watched from the stands. Without him, the home
side were toothless in the first half.

They certainly did not appear a side capable of reaching the Wembley final on May 25, but on they go.

Those looking for romance forged at
home in the story of Parisian resurgence might prefer to overlook the
fact it has been funded by overseas money, since the 2011 takeover by
the Qatar Investment Authority.

Their budget is more Champions League
than Ligue 1, and the personnel brought to the Parc des Princes over
the last two years reflects it.

The sudden wealth means tangible
success in Europe is a requisite, so winning in Spain three weeks ago
was not the achievement it might have been considered before the
takeover and more another step in the plan for growth.

PSG are unbeaten in
their last 23 European home matches now but they were clinging on at
the end as Valencia sought the goal that would have forced extra-time.

Overjoyed: David Beckham celebrates Lavezzi's equaliser from the sidelines

Overjoyed: David Beckham celebrates Lavezzi's equaliser from the sidelines

Pick that one out: Jonas rifled Valencia into the lead in the second half

Pick that one out: Jonas rifled Valencia into the lead in the second half

Game on: Jonas celebrates his stunning goal after half-time to bring Valencia back into the tie

Game on: Jonas celebrates his stunning goal after half-time to bring Valencia back into the tie

Twisting: Lucas (left) turns away from his marker Jeremy Mathieu

Twisting: Lucas (left) turns away from his marker Jeremy Mathieu

With Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti
suspended, and winger Jeremy Menez injured, manager Carlo Ancelotti –
who won the Champions League in 2003 and 2007 with AC Milan – had a
weakened hand before kick-off.

Lucas started alongside Lavezzi in attack.

There was no room in the starting XI
for Beckham, squeezed out of central midfield by Thiago Motta and
Blaise Matuidi. The former England captain was primed on the bench but
stayed there.

PSG fans might have been wary that
their expensively-assembled team are prone to aberrations, such as their
league defeat to Reims at the weekend.

Jonas almost got in behind the home defence in the eighth minute but a foot in by Christophe Jallet denied him.

Valencia had a further chance when
Jonas linked up with strike partner Roberto Soldado. Salvatore Sirigu
smothered his low 15-yard shot.

Ouch: Blaise Matuidi lies on the turf after taking a hefty challenge

Ouch: Blaise Matuidi lies on the turf after taking a hefty challenge

Putting the boot in: Lucas Moura (right) swings in a cross

Putting the boot in: Lucas Moura (right) swings in a cross

Jonas sent a 20-yard shot bobbling wide, and Tino Costa cracked an ambitious effort several yards off target.

Sirigu palmed away a stinging 20-yard drive from Jonas just before the break, but it was a ball he might have caught.

From the corner that followed, Costa
struck the ball so sweetly it was missed by everyone in blue and red,
and also his team-mates as it swerved wide of the far post.

Limbering up: Beckham stretches ahead of Paris Saint-Germain's match

Limbering up: Beckham stretches ahead of Paris Saint-Germain's match

Eyes on the prize: The former England captain performs some kick-ups ahead of the game

Eyes on the prize: The former England captain performs some kick-ups ahead of the game

Waiting in the wings: Beckham warms up ahead of the clash with Valencia

Waiting in the wings: Beckham warms up ahead of the clash with Valencia

Benched: Beckham started the match on the sidelines

Benched: Beckham started the match on the sidelines

Ever Banega stepped out in place of Albelda for the second half, an attacking move by Valencia.
Jonas made the breakthrough in the 55th minute with a crashing 25-yard drive inside the left post.

Valencia had more zip about their
game, but PSG were level 11 minutes later though and it was Lavezzi who
woke the home crowd from an understandable stupor. Kevin Gameiro, on in
place of Thiago Motta, bustled through a couple of challenges before the
ball rolled kindly for his team-mate.

Vicente Guaita repelled Lavezzi's
15-yard blast but could then do nothing to prevent him tucking the ball
over the line with his knee.

Clement Chantome's 25-yard swipe drew a solid save from Guaita, with PSG on top for perhaps the first time in the match.

Valencia poured pressure on the Paris
goal in the closing minutes but they struggled to get in behind as their
campaign reached its end.

Fernando Torres needs to leave Chelsea, says Stan Collymore

Torres hates putting on the blue of Chelsea and needs to leave, claims Collymore

By
Rik Sharma

PUBLISHED:

15:44 GMT, 3 March 2013

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UPDATED:

16:07 GMT, 3 March 2013

Stan Collymore has urged Fernando Torres to leave Chelsea for his own good.

The former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker believes the Spaniard is finding his time at Stamford Bridge dark, desperate and lonely.

Torres, who cost 50million, failed to flourish under Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo.

Now interim manager Rafa Benitez, who helped Torres find the best form of his career at Liverpool, cannot help his compatriot to get back among the goals.

Torres and Benitez

Torres and Benitez

Substitute: Fernando Torres came on to replace Chelsea's match-winner Demba Ba

'It’s all over for the striker now. His confidence is beyond shot,' wrote Collymore in his Sunday People column.

'He will put on the blue of Chelsea every day and he will hate it, as he will the daily drive to Cobham for training.'

Collymore continued: 'I have said this before and I have to say it again: It’s time to go, Fernando. For your sake, and yours alone.'

Old boy: Stan Collymore also knew the way to goal in a Liverpool shirt

Old boy: Stan Collymore also knew the way to goal in a Liverpool shirt

Torres was dropped to the bench against West Brom on Saturday, coming on as a substitute for 10 minutes.

January signing Demba Ba played in his stead and scored the winning goal.

Torres is expected to start for Chelsea on Thursday night when they take on Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League because Ba is cup tied.

Tshwane Open – European Tour: Dawie van der Walt wins by two shots

Against the odds: World No 436 Van der Walt wins Tshwane Open on home soil

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

15:51 GMT, 3 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

16:11 GMT, 3 March 2013

EUROPEAN TOUR LEADERBOARD

Click HERE for the Tshwane Open leaderboard

Dawie van der Walt claimed the biggest victory of his career to win the Tshwane Open by two shots ahead of fellow South African Darren Fichardt.

Another South African Louis De Jager was third a further shot back as Van der Walt picked up his first tour win of the season.

Van der Walt finished with a five under par 67 as he picked up his first win on the European Tour.

Champion: Dawie van der Walt lifts the trophy after winning the Tshwane Open by two shots

Champion: Dawie van der Walt lifts the trophy after winning the Tshwane Open by two shots

Champions: Dawie Van Der Walt lifts the trophy after winning the Tshwane Open by two shots

He was part of a four-way tie for the
lead at the start of the day with Fichardt, compatriot Charl Coetzee and
Chile's Mark Tullo

Coetzee and Fichardt went clear after
they birdied the second and third holes, but Van der Walt drew level
after he eagled the par four fourth.

Fichardt retook the lead after another
under par score on the fifth, but by the turn Van der Walt was in front
after consecutive birdies.

Dawie Van Der Walt

Dawie Van Der Walt

Winner: Van der Walt embraces second-placed Darren Fichardt (left) before celebrating with his caddie (right)

Tullo and Coetzee were out of the
picture after fading on the last nine, while a bogey on the 10th for Van
der Walt was negated by birdies at the 12th and 15th put him two clear.

It proved vital as he closed with three consecutive pars to seal the title.

'You can only imagine what it's like
to win such a big one,' Van der Walt told europeantour.com. 'I'm just
really happy that I played well and won, because you can play well and
not win.'

In the mix: England's David Howell finished tied for 10th on -14

In the mix: England's David Howell finished tied for 10th on -14

He added: 'You start doubting yourself and at
30-years-old you start to wonder if you're good enough and this shows me
that I am. I would have liked to win before 30, but I'll definitely
take this.

'Golf is a game where you don't get a lot of chances to win, and to do it is fantastic.

'I don't know what I'll do yet. The
purses are a lot bigger in The European Tour, so I'll have to rethink
some things. You can make your own schedule, which is important.

'I hit the ball really good and I
never really had to chip, which is not my strength. If you hit a lot of
greens and don't three-putt then you're going to do well.'

Golf: Richard Sterne and Trevor Fischer Jnr are tied for the lead at the Johannesburg open

South African duo Sterne and Fischer Jnr tied for the lead in Johannesburg

PUBLISHED:

17:26 GMT, 8 February 2013

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UPDATED:

17:26 GMT, 8 February 2013

South Africa's Richard Sterne and Trevor Fisher Jnr are tied for the lead at the halfway stage of the Joburg Open, three shots clear of the chasing pack.

Sterne followed up his opening-day 63 with another blemish-free round of 65 today on the east course to join early leader Fisher Jnr on 15 under par for the tournament.

Fisher Jnr had looked set to take a comfortable lead into the third day after he shot a blistering 62 on the west course, just one stroke outside Charl Schwartzel's course record.

Faultless: Richard Sterne followed up his opening day 63 with a high quality 65

Faultless: Richard Sterne followed up his opening day 63 with a high quality 65

Faultless: Richard Sterne followed up his opening day 63 with a high quality 65

However, Sterne, who was runner-up to Stephen Gallacher in the Dubai Classic last week, continued his good run of form to stay in contention for his sixth European Tour title at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Course.

A birdie on the opening hole and gains at the fourth and seventh saw him quickly close ground on his compatriot before an eight-foot putt at the ninth saw him claim an outward score of 33.

Sterne then added birdies on three of the last four holes which saw him catch up with Fisher Jnr and repeat his effort from the opening day of finishing the round joint top.

'I did the right things and putted well. It's nice to not be behind going into the weekend,' Sterne told europeantour.com.

Man on a mission: Trevor Fisher Jnr shot a round of 62 to climb to the top of the leader-board

Man on a mission: Trevor Fisher Jnr shot a round of 62 to climb to the top of the leader-board

'It won't be easy on the weekend. The players that are five or six back can catch us as well. Charl's there, George (Coetzee) is due a win, so it's a long way from over.'

Fisher Jnr, who was named Sunshine Tour Players' Player of the Year two days ago, shot an eagle and seven birdies on the way to a nine-under-par round of 62 on day two.

'It was a great day out there,' Fisher Jnr said. 'Everything just happened for me and I sank the putts I needed to sink.

On song: Fisher Jnr shot an eagle and seven birdies

On song: Fisher Jnr shot an eagle and seven birdies

On song: Fisher Jnr shot an eagle and seven birdies

'I was happy and patient with myself – walked slow and did everything slow – and it was just a good day.'

Coetzee completed the all-South African top three on 12 under par while home favourite Schwartzel fired 65 on the west course to tie for fourth place alongside compatriot Keith Horne and Felipe Aguilar of Chile.

And Schwartzel was not surprised with Fisher Jnr's strong performance so far in the tournament.
He said: 'We played foursomes for South Africa Under-23s – I know how good he can be.'

England's Tommy Fleetwood finished on nine under par for the first two rounds after he carded 66 today to lie in a four-way tie for seventh while Scotland's David Drysdale and England's Richard Finch were another shot back in a cluster of nine players.

Didier Drogba arrives in Turkey with Galatasaray

Drogba arrives in Turkey to party atmosphere as ex-Chelsea hitman begins latest chapter with Galatasaray

PUBLISHED:

17:59 GMT, 8 February 2013

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UPDATED:

18:09 GMT, 8 February 2013

Didier Drogba received a warm welcome as he arrived in Istanbul having agreed to join Turkish club Galatasaray in the January transfer window.

Former Inter Milan playmaker Wesley Sneijder received a similarly rapturous welcome when he arrived in the Turkey last month, and Drogba expressed his delight at joining the Dutchman having left Chinese team Shanghai Shenhua.

The Ivory Coast captain's arrival was delayed by his participation in the Africa Cup of Nations.

New chapter: Didier Drogba held up a Galatasaray flag after arriving in Istanbul this afternoon

New chapter: Didier Drogba held up a Galatasaray flag after arriving in Istanbul this afternoon

But the former Chelsea striker's hopes of winning the tournament for the first time were scuppered when Nigeria put the Ivorians out.

Drogba stepped off the plane this afternoon and held up a flag with the club colours and crest printed on it before meeting up with head coach Fatih Terim.

When the 34-year-old arrived at Galatasaray's training base, he told Galatasaray TV: 'I've met with the coach, but it’s not the first time we’ve met. He just remembered me from when Cote d’Ivoire national team played against Turkey.

Warm welcome: Drogba received a similar reception to Wesley Sneijder after he arrived in Turkey last month

Warm welcome: Drogba received a similar reception to Wesley Sneijder after he arrived in Turkey last month

'I’m really happy to be here for me as it’s a new challenge, a new part of my life. I will do my best to be successful for the club.'

Drogba will link up with compatriot Emmanuel Eboue, who joined the Turkish champions from Arsenal in the summer of 2011.

Another former Chelsea striker who took the same path from Stamford Bridge to China has also returned to Europe.

Nicolas Anelka joined Shenhua in January last year, but decided to transfer to Italian giants Juventus, making his move to the Serie A champions last month.

In the mix: Wesley Sneijder has already made the switch from Inter Milan to Galatasaray

In the mix: Wesley Sneijder has already made the switch from Inter Milan to Galatasaray

Australian Open 2013: Serena Williams beats Maria Kirilenko to face Sloane Stephens

Williams cruises past Kirlenko to set up mouthwatering clash against the youngster billed as the next Serena

By
Rik Sharma

PUBLISHED:

10:42 GMT, 21 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

11:51 GMT, 21 January 2013

Serena Williams was in fine fettle as she beat Maria Kirilenko 6-2, 6-0 to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals.

The American will face her compatriot Sloane Stephens who is competing in her first grand slam quarter-final after beating Bojana Jovanovski.

Serena landed close to 90 per cent of her first serves and knew herself how strong her performance was.

Flying: Serena Williams made light work of Maria Kirilenko at the Rod Laver

Flying: Serena Williams made light work of Maria Kirilenko at the Rod Laver

'I thought I played really well,' Williams told The Australian. 'I didn't expect to come out and play so well tonight.

'I
was like 'wow'. I saw I had like 95 per cent of first serves in the
first set and I thought: “Who is this girl” It's not me normally.'

Stephens
is the 'next big thing' in American tennis and the clash against Serena
will be intriguing. The 19-year-old beat Jovanovski 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 to
set up the clash against her childhood hero.

Less than 60 minutes: Kirilenko struggled at the hands of Serena

Less than 60 minutes: Kirilenko struggled at the hands of Serena

Although she doesn't like being compared to Serena, there are similarities between the two.

Both have powerful serves and like playing from the baseline, for instance.

They get along well off of the court too, often texting each other. 'We just keep it goofy,' Stephens said. 'She’s like the goofiest person I know.'

Serena said of Sloane: 'I think she's playing great. We played just two weeks ago in Brisbane, she played unbelievably well.

'I think she is an incredible talent and I admire her too. It will be a tough match for me but I feel like I have nothing to lose.'

Tale of the tape

SERENA WILLIAMS

SLOANE STEPHENS

Age

31

19

Weight

155lbs

135lbs

Height

5'9″

5'7″

Birthplace

Saginaw, MI, USA

Plantation, FL, USA

World seeding

3

25

Serena v Sloane

SERENA WILLIAMS

SLOANE STEPHENS

WTA Singles titles

47

0

WTA Doubles titles

22

0

ITF Circuits singles titles

0

1

ITF Doubles titles

0

1

Prize money

$41,960,896

$694,995

Won/Lost Singles

558-108

108-77

Won/Lost Doubles

166-21

29-32

Serena throws her towel in to the sky

Serena throws her towel in to the sky

Australian Open 2013: David Ferrer beats Kei Nishikori 6-2, 6-1, 6-4

Ferrer sees off Japan's Nishikori in three sets as Spaniard eyes first Grand Slam title

By
Steven Donaldson

PUBLISHED:

04:51 GMT, 20 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

04:51 GMT, 20 January 2013

Fourth seed David Ferrer used all of his cunning and exploited Kei Nishikori's nagging knee injury to advance to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 victory.

Japan's Nishikori, who had entered the tournament with a knee injury, needed to have his left leg re-strapped in the second set of the two hour, 10-minute match, and his normally fluid movement appeared to be slightly hampered.

Looking good: David Ferrer celebrates winning his fourth round match against Kei Nishikori

Looking good: David Ferrer celebrates winning his fourth round match against Kei Nishikori

David Ferrer

Kei Nishikori

Mixed emotions: David Ferrer celebrates a point as Kei Nishikori looks dejected

Baseline specialist Ferrer took full advantage of the 16th seed's injury, working him around the court and waiting for the 23-year-old to make one of his 65 errors, though the Japanese number one did put up some resistance in the third set.

The Spaniard will next play the winner of the fourth round encounter between eighth-seeded Serbian Janko Tipsarevic or 10th seeded compatriot Nicolas Almagro in the quarter-finals.

Australian Open 2013: Gilles Simon confirms he is fit to face Andy Murray

Murray is favorite to beat me, admits Simon after declaring himself fit following Monfils battle

By
Mike Dickson

PUBLISHED:

06:17 GMT, 20 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

06:17 GMT, 20 January 2013

Gilles Simon, Andy Murray’s fourth round opponent in the Australian Open, confirmed that he will be able to take the court for the match despite suffering heavy cramping in his Saturday night epic against Gael Monfils.

The slightly-built Frenchman was unable to speak to the media after beating his compatriot 8-6 in the fifth set of an extremely gruelling encounter that lasted nearly four and three quarter hours, and was marked by the sheer length of the rallies involved.

He only appeared in public this afternoon local time, having needed extensive treatment when he came off the court after midnight in some distress suffering cramp all over his body following the most attritional match imaginable.

Scroll down to watch the 71-shot rally between Simon and Monfils

Shattered: An exhausted Gilles Simon sits down after winning his third round match against fellow countryman Gael Monfils

Shattered: An exhausted Gilles Simon sits down after winning his third round match against fellow countryman Gael Monfils

There had been rumours that he had been taken to hospital and might pull out of his meeting with Murray due to leg or arm injuries, but he quickly quashed those while admitting that he was still very sore.

'No, my treatment was here, but yes I was in bad shape,' he said. 'I’m never cramping on the court normally. I felt like I played the end of the match in a dream, like I was not even on the court. I was just hitting the ball, trying to run, and not thinking anymore. I was too tired to be upset or happy, at the end of the match I had just completely lost control.'

Gilles Simon

Gael Monfils

Epic: Simon and Monfils shared a brilliant 71-shot rally during their third round match

One of the rallies against Monfils had
lasted 71 strokes and took one minute forty second to complete, but many
of the baseline exchanges were long between two counter punchers.

'All parts of my body were painful but there’s no miracle cure so you’ve just got to have massage and stretching. I went to sleep about 5am and woke up about two o’ clock.'

Murray is about the last player you want to meet if your legs are heavy because he is so skilled at making opponents run side to side and back and forward, so it looked a mountainous task for the fourteenth seed to disrupt his march towards the last four.

Giving it everything: Simon rests on the net during his third round match

Giving it everything: Simon rests on the net during his third round match

Treatment: Simon received medical attention

Treatment: Simon received medical attention

Their match will start at 5pm local time so there was another 24 hours to recover, with Roger Federer the featured night match on Rod Laver Arena.

'With Andy I know how strong he is and of course it will be really difficult but at the moment I’m just happy I won the last match. Even if I don’t have a lot of chance to win this it’s my job to go on court and do the maximum I can to bother him and give him a hard time.

Next up: Andy Murray will be the strong favorite against Simon

Next up: Andy Murray will be the strong favorite against Simon

'It is not easy to win 6-2 6-3 6-2 against Andy and I’m not sure if we play longer than that I will be able to make it to the end. But I will do everything I can to be ready and I still have another sleep.'

Another small problem for Simon is that Murray has won their last nine matches against each other, so he would start as strong favourite regardless.

VIDEO Watch the amazing 71-shot rally between Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils

Australian Open 2013: Maria Sharapova wins first round

Sharapova begins Melbourne campaign with double-bagel win over compatriot Puchkova

By
Mike Dawes

PUBLISHED:

01:41 GMT, 14 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

04:03 GMT, 14 January 2013

Maria Sharapova dispelled any uncertainty over her fitness with a ruthless demolition of Olga Puchkova at the Australian Open today.

The Russian was forced to pull out of the warm-up event in Brisbane after suffering a collarbone injury shortly before Christmas.

But in her first competitive match of 2013 she showed no signs of rustiness by brushing aside her Russian countrywoman 6-0 6-0 in just 55 minutes.

Signed, sealed, delivered: Maria Sharapova eased through to the second round in Melbourne

Signed, sealed, delivered: Maria Sharapova eased through to the second round in Melbourne

Sealed with a kiss: Maria Sharapova cruised to victory against Olga Puchkova

Sharapova's dominance was only threatened in the early stages when Puchkova, ranked 107 in the world, held two break points in the opening game but the second seed gave an early demonstration of her physical state with two booming aces to avert the danger.

From there on in it was a procession as the first match of the tournament on the main show court – Rod Laver Arena – ended in a disappointing no-contest.

Sharapova reached the final last year before being crushed by world No 1 Victoria Azarenka and she is hoping to go one better this year and repeat her Melbourne triumph of 2008.

She said: 'After a couple of close games I started to concentrate a bit better.

Sealed with a kiss: Sharapova had too much in her locker as she crushed compatriot Olga Puchkova (below)

Sealed with a kiss: Sharapova had too much in her locker as she crushed compatriot Olga Puchkova (below)

Plenty to ponder: Puchkova was hopelessly outclassed by Sharapova

'I didn't want to focus on the fact I hadn't played a lot of matches but just focus on what was ahead of me and really be aggressive.

'Today was a good scoreline.'

Although she didn't drop a game, Sharapova insisted there was still room for improvement.

'It's tough to feel completely satisfied,' she said.

'You always want to improve on things and work on certain things that you feel will help you in the later rounds towards the end of the second week.

'But overall I was happy with the way I started considering I didn't play any matches coming in.'

Rafa Benitez savours Juan Mata masterclass after Chelsea midfielder shoots down Norwich

Benitez savours Mata masterclass after Chelsea midfielder shoots down Norwich

|

UPDATED:

18:36 GMT, 26 December 2012

Chelsea interim manager Rafael
Benitez hailed Juan Mata as one of the best players in the Barclays
Premier League after the Spaniard struck the winner in a 1-0 victory at
Norwich.

Despite not hitting the heights of
the 8-0 thrashing dished out to Aston Villa on Sunday, Chelsea were the
better side in a game that lacked any sustained quality.

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

Mata struck from 25 yards in the 38th minute to settle the match and condemn Norwich to a second defeat in four days, with the Canaries failing to truly test Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech over the course of the game.

The win moves the Blues to within four points of Manchester City in the Premier League table and Benitez was full of praise for his compatriot.

'He is playing really well,' he said.

'Even without the ball he is working hard but when we are in possession he is making the difference, I always say the same; if the team are playing well these players can make the difference.

'I think the Premier League has a lot of good players and Mata is one of the best for sure – he can be even better.

'Mata is a player who is dangerous – inside the box and outside the box, we are really pleased with him.

'The team has won three games in a row since Japan…against Man United and Arsenal they (Norwich) have won so we knew it could be tough, I'm pleased for the team and pleased for Juan.'

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

Benitez left Frank Lampard on the bench for the trip to Norfolk amid speculation he will leave Stamford Bridge next summer.

But the former Liverpool boss was bullish about the future of Lampard and fellow England star Ashley Cole.

'From my position it is very easy, it is a private conversation between
Frank and the club and that is it. He is a good player and I would like
to bring the best from him, that is my position.

'I don't know if Ashley has had the conversations or not but, for me, they are players under contract, good players.

'After being injured like he (Lampard) was, we needed fresh legs and we have to manage the squad,' he said

'We can't play so many game with the same players so we have to manage and everyone is important.'

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