Tag Archives: score

Goal of the season – Premier League contenders so far

After wonder goals from Lowton and Remy, Sportsmail picks the contenders (so far…) for the Premier League's goal of the season

PUBLISHED:

10:49 GMT, 8 April 2013

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UPDATED:

10:59 GMT, 8 April 2013

Forget the title race or the fight to avoid relegation, here's one competition that pretty much all football fans can enjoy – goal of the season.

It may only be the first week of April, but screamers from Matthew Lowton and Loic Remy at the weekend will definitely be contenders.

Super strike I: Matthew Lowton fires home his volley for Villa at Stoke

Super strike I: Matthew Lowton fires home his volley for Villa at Stoke

Super strike II: Loic Remy crashes home the ball in QPR's draw with Wigan

Super strike II: Loic Remy crashes home the ball in QPR's draw with Wigan

Lowton's sumptuous late volley at Stoke breathed life into Aston Villa's battle to stay up on Saturday.

And Remy fired home a rocket from the edge of the box to give fellow strugglers QPR hope before Shaun Maloney's equaliser at the death.

Let's hope there are further contenders in the climax to the season – but, for now, Sportsmail's team of experts nominate their favourite of the campaign so far.

*Who would you vote for Explain your choice at the bottom of the article…

NEIL ASHTON

Gareth Bale – West Ham 2 TOTTENHAM 3 (February 24, 2013)

Special players score goals at important moment, living with the pressure and winning games for their team with top class finishes when others are fading. Bale did just that when he won this fixture for Spurs at West Ham with a top quality strike from outside the area. His celebrations with Andre Villas-Boas on the touchline were even better.

SAMI MOKBEL

Gareth Bale has got quite a collection to choose from this season – but this is right up there. Final minute. 30 yards. Left foot. Bang. Three points.

Rocket: Gareth Bale scores at West Ham before celebrating with Andre Villas-Boas

Rocket: Gareth Bale scores at West Ham before celebrating with Andre Villas-Boas

Rocket: Gareth Bale scores at West Ham before celebrating with Andre Villas-Boas
DOMINIC KING

Leighton Baines – Newcastle 1 EVERTON 2 (January 3, 2013)

An absolute humdinger from the best left-back in the country, his effort from 30 yards dipped, swerved and sped past Tim Krul before he realised what had happened. Great technique and phenomenal power. Eclipses Luis Suarez's stunning control and deft finish against the same opponents at Anfield in November.

Rocket: Leighton Baines crashes the ball home from 30 yards at Newcastle

Rocket: Leighton Baines crashes the ball home from 30 yards at Newcastle

SIMON CASS

Luis Suarez – LIVERPOOL 1 Newcastle 1 (November 4, 2013)

Luis Suarez’s equaliser against Newcastle back in November will take some beating. The Uruguayan plucks Luis Enrique’s long ball out of the air, holds of Fabricio Coloccini before taking a touch to go past Tim Krul to roll it into the net. Genius.

Control: Luis Suarez bamboozles the Newcastle defence to score this wonder goal

Control: Luis Suarez bamboozles the Newcastle defence to score this wonder goal

SAM CUNNINGHAM

Dimitar Berbatov – FULHAM 1 Stoke 0 (February 23, 2013)

This goal was everything that sums up the nonchalant Bulgarian – class, quality, precision, technique, grace. He was standing just inside the box on the right when a defensive header dropped from the sky. The ball plummeted 20-30 metres, a distance your average armchair fan would struggle to even control the ball from, and Berbatov stroked it into the top corner from just inside the box on the right.

Eyes on the ball: Dimitar Berbatov volleys home against Stoke at Craven Cottage

Eyes on the ball: Dimitar Berbatov volleys home against Stoke at Craven Cottage

Eyes on the ball: Dimitar Berbatov volleys home against Stoke at Craven Cottage

Eyes on the ball: Dimitar Berbatov volleys home against Stoke at Craven Cottage

CHRIS WHEELER

Cameron Jerome – STOKE 3 Southampton 3 (December 29, 2012)

Jerome's blockbusting 90th-minute equaliser was stunning – if it wasn’t for the net, this one would still be travelling now.

Salute: Cameron Jerome celebrates his stunning last-minute goal for Stoke

Salute: Cameron Jerome celebrates his stunning last-minute goal for Stoke

JOHN EDWARDS

Loic Remy – QPR 1 Wigan 1 (April 7, 2013)

It has to be Remy, for one simple reason. While Lowton’s goal was spectacular, Remy’s had an air of wonder, bordering on mystique, about it. We’ve had any number of brilliantly-executed volleys down the years, but never, as far as I can recall, a first-time side-foot shot on the run from 20 yards hit with such power, it was past the keeper before he could move. Like Paolo Di Canio’s airborne effort against Wimbledon, it left you shaking your head and wondering exactly how he did it.

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ADAM SHERGOLD

Robin van Persie – MANCHESTER UNITED 3 Fulham 2 (August 25, 2012)

What a way to introduce yourself. A cross in from the left, a step in front of the defender and, in one fluid movement and without even looking at the goal, the ball is swept home. It was a goal that said: ‘I’m worth every penny and I’m here to get your title back.’ And how he has.

Touch: Robin van Persie directs the ball home in United's win over Fulham

Touch: Robin van Persie directs the ball home in United's win over Fulham

MIKE ANSTEAD

Papiss Cisse – NEWCASTLE 4 Southampton 2 (February 24, 2013)

Cisse has now scored a few belters for Newcastle. He likes to drop the odd cracker in among his finishes inside the six-yard box. This goal reminded me of Alan Shearer in his Newcastle pomp, lashing it home from 25 yards.

Sealed with a kiss: Cisse celebrates his stunner against Southampton

Sealed with a kiss: Cisse celebrates his stunner against Southampton

MATT FORTUNE

Theo Walcott – ARSENAL 7 Newcastle 3 (December 29, 2012)

It's not the tidiest, the most sweetly struck, or skilful, but for the befuddlement I still feel when watching it back, Walcott's hat-trick goal saw him tie two players in knots by the touchline, trip over his own feet on entry to the box, somehow slide on his knees practically through the legs of another, take out a fourth, jump to his feet and scoop the ball from a narrowing angle into the top corner.

Joyous: Theo Walcott wheels away after completing his hat-trick against Newcastle

Joyous: Theo Walcott wheels away after completing his hat-trick against Newcastle

ALEX KAY

Michael Kightly – Manchester United 4 STOKE 2 (October 20, 2012)

The former Wolves man doesn’t always get a game for Stoke but his run from the halfway line at Old Trafford was phenomenal and one he will remember for the rest of his career. There was a slightly lucky bobble along the way but the finish was excellent.

LUKE BENEDICT

Matthew Lowton – Stoke 1 ASTON VILLA 3 (April 6, 2013)

For the patience to wait for the ball to drop on to his foot despite two Stoke players closing down fast, for the vision to shoot on goal given the magnitude of the match and just how far out he was, then finally for the technical ability to actually pull it off. Can you imagine the fuss if Messi had scored it

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Wales" Gareth Bale is back in the frame to play Croatia

Bale back in the frame for Wales clash with Croatia after coming on leaps and bounds

By
Thom Drake

PUBLISHED:

16:03 GMT, 25 March 2013

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UPDATED:

16:04 GMT, 25 March 2013

Wales winger Gareth Bale has been training as he recovers from both a stomach virus and the ankle injury which forced him off early against Scotland on Friday.

Bale was a doubt for Wales' World Cup qualifier with Croatia, but he seemed as athletic as ever bounding around the training session.

If Wales want to stand any chance of going to Rio they have to overcome a seven point gap between themselves and both Belgium and Croatia who lead the group on 13 points.

Flying high: Gareth Bale appears to be fit again by the look of this acrobatic celebration

Flying high: Gareth Bale appears to be fit again by the look of this acrobatic celebration

Smiling wide: Wales will be hoping Bale can get round the Croatian defence as easily as he did this marker

Smiling wide: Wales will be hoping Bale can get round the Croatian defence as easily as he did this marker

Aaron Ramsey is ruled out of the game through suspension because of his sending off against Scotland.

Wales came from behind to with two goals in two minutes. Grant Hanley had put Scotland ahead on the stroke of half-time, but when Robert Snodgrass fouled Chris Gunter, not only was he given a red card but Ramsey put away the penalty.

Only a minute later Wales scored the winner as Hal Robson-Kanu headed past Alan McGregor.

Man down: Ashley Williams keeps Bale in his sights as they train

Man down: Ashley Williams keeps Bale in his sights as they train

Cheeky: Wales lost the away fixture with Croatia 2-0

Cheeky: Wales lost the away fixture with Croatia 2-0

Bale's incredibly season has included 23 goals for club and country, and has taken his tally of international strikes up to 10 in 37 appearances.

He failed to get on the score-sheet against Scotland when he was hampered by injury, and will be chomping at the bit to continue his goalscoring run.

Croatia's biggest threat will come from former Tottenham and now Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric, Bayern Munich's Mario Mandzukic and Wolfsburg's Ivica Olic.

Gently jog: Bale and Craig Bellamy warm up before their session

Gently jog: Bale and Craig Bellamy warm up before their session

Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale

Star man: Manager Chris Coleman will be delighted to have Bale back in his first 11

Star man: Manager Chris Coleman will be delighted to have Bale back in his first 11

Puffed out: Even Bale has to take a rest at some point

Puffed out: Even Bale has to take a rest at some point

Wasps 24 Northampton 26: Christian Day scores late winner

Wasps 24 Northampton 26: Day breaks hosts' hearts with last-gasp winner

By
Ian Stafford

PUBLISHED:

17:54 GMT, 23 March 2013

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UPDATED:

20:11 GMT, 23 March 2013

Northampton 's pack dominated their Wasps counterparts to such an extent in this battle for the play-offs that three Wasps forwards were sent to the sin bin.

But it took Christian Day's finalplay try to steal victory. Stephen Myler still needed to land the simple conversion to confirm the win but Day's score – assisted by returning England star Dylan Hartley, who shoved his team-mate over the line – also earned a bonus point that could prove crucial.

Wasps, seconds away from a remarkable win considering they played with one man down for nearly half an hour and were crushed up front, now find themselves seven points adrift of fourth-placed Northampton.

Lee 'n' easy: Lee Dickinson scores the Saints' second try

Lee 'n' easy: Lee Dickinson scores the Saints' second try

Day's final score summed up a
physical clash between two teams featuring a host of players who either
lost for England last week in Cardiff or who are pushing hard for a
place in the June tour to Argentina.

Day's try resulted from a driving maul as the Wasps forwards spent much of the game going backwards and conceding penalties.

Saints would have been kicking themselves if they had lost, which they nearly did thanks to a second-half comeback from Wasps.

Losing director of rugby Dai Young
said: 'Fair play to Northampton, they had a real weapon in their maul
and they used it. It's hard to play against them with 15 men and even
harder with 14 for much of the game, especially when you don't get the
field position or the ball.

Heading for glory: Elliot Daly (right) of London Wasps scores his team's second try

Heading for glory: Elliot Daly (right) of London Wasps scores his team's second try

'That said, having got our noses in
front, I take issue with the last three penalties awarded to them,
although I'm not saying Saints didn't deserve to win. The bottom line is
that if you can't stop a driving line out you'll struggle.'

Northampton director of rugby Jim
Mallinder was more relieved than happy, saying: 'If you have a weapon
like that, then you use it. We controlled the game but Wasps can score
points quickly.

'We gave away some penalties and almost threw it away. But we got a bonus point win and are now in a good position.'

Snow stopping me: George Pisi evades Daly's tackle

Snow stopping me: George Pisi evades Daly's tackle

The portents were clear from as early
as the eighth minute, when referee David Rose awarded Saints a penalty
try and sent Thomas Rhys Thomas to the bin.

Eight minutes later, Lee Dickson
flopped over after another powerful maul. Wasps hit back through a
long-range Elliott Daly penalty and then a classic Tom Varndell try,
sprinting in from 50 yards to score his 12th of the season and his 72nd
Premiership try in total. Varndell is now only four behind record scorer
Mark Cueto.

Snow joke: Daly lefty dejected after Saints stole the win at the death

Snow joke: Daly lefty dejected after Saints stole the win at the death

A conversion and two penalties from
Stephen Jones meant the home side were only three points down at the
break, despite a Hartley try from yet another destructive maul.

This built into a five-point
advantage after another Jones penalty and a stunning finish from Daly in
the corner which will surely not go unnoticed by the England selectors.

But after Ashley Johnson received his
team's third yellow card, Day ended a period of sustained Northampton
pressure by snatching the game at the death.

Jack Wilshere reveals how he got Lionel Messi and Xavi"s shirt

Xavi had the hump with me but I still got his and Messi's shirts, reveals Arsenal ace Wilshere

By
John Drayton

PUBLISHED:

11:58 GMT, 29 January 2013

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UPDATED:

12:11 GMT, 29 January 2013

Few can boast to have given Barcelona star Xavi such a run for his money that the Spaniard has left the pitch in the huff.

But Jack Wilshere managed just that while still a teenager in 2011. And now the Arsenal star has revealed his adversary begrudgingly handed over his shirt after the pair did battle in the Champions League.

Making his mark: Jack Wilshere more than matched Xavi and Lionel Messi when they faced off in the Champions League back in 2011

Making his mark: Jack Wilshere more than matched Xavi and Lionel Messi when they faced off in the Champions League back in 2011

Making his mark: Jack Wilshere more than matched Xavi and Lionel Messi when they faced off in the Champions League back in 2011

The two-legged tie, won 4-3 on
aggregate by the Catalans, was seen as a coming of age moment for the
young Englishman, standing up as he did to one of modern football's
truly great midfielders.

Arsenal had edged the opening leg 2-1, but were downed, not for the first time, by Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp.

Despite the result, though, all was not well for one of the victors.

'I asked Xavi for his but he had the hump a bit,' said Wilshere. 'So he just threw me his shirt and strolled off. I asked Cesc Fabregas to get me Messi's because they’re good friends, and he did.'

Xavi was also on the scoresheet on the night of the second leg and it is that element of his game that Wilshere admits he most needs to improve.

The 21-year-old has scored twice this season having only previously grabbed three in three years as a first-team player.

He added: 'I'm working on it. I was always top scorer in the youth team but I didn’t score enough in my first year and then I got injured for the whole season. So I’m building up again this year, then next season I’m going to start scoring.'

Saracens 40 Edinburgh 7: Bonus-point win sends Sarries through in Vicarage Road send-off

Saracens 40 Edinburgh 7: Ashton doubles lifts Sarries in Vicarage Road send-off

By
Luke Benedict

PUBLISHED:

15:50 GMT, 20 January 2013

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UPDATED:

23:08 GMT, 20 January 2013

England winger Chris Ashton defied the snow to score two tries and book Saracens a Heineken Cup quater-final clash with Ulster.

It was the sort of day when a winger only touches the ball twice – luckily for Ashton he scored both times. The first was a routine chase but the second came from a controversial cross-field kick from Owen Farrell.

The England fly-half, wearing the Saracens number 13 shirt yesterday, looked to be teeing up a penalty but spotted Ashton open wide and pulled the trigger. The Edinburgh players were furious as the kicking tee was already on the pitch, meaning Saracens, playing their final match at Vicarage Road, had no option but to kick.

Saracens finished first in their table ahead of Munster and Racing Metro

Top dogs: Saracens finished first in their table ahead of Munster and Racing Metro

Charlie Hodgson celebrates after scoring Saracens' fourth try to secure their bonus-point

Ecstatic: Charlie Hodgson celebrates after scoring Saracens' fourth try to secure their bonus-point

But Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall preferred to salute Ashton, saying: 'It was great to see Ashy score a couple of tries and getting back to what he really does best.

'The second try was fantastic and I wish I could claim credit for thinking that up; Ashy and Owen (Farrell) just saw each other and they pulled it off.

'We can appreciate just how difficult it was out there and we said after the game that the conditions were as bad as it gets with the ball like a bar of soap.’

Saracens' skipper Steve Borthwick rampages through tackles at a very snowy Vicarage Road

Power: Saracens' skipper Steve Borthwick rampages through tackles at a very snowy Vicarage Road

Richard Wigglesworth handed Edinburgh a way back before half-time. With the ball slipping around like an ice-hockey puck the Saracens scrum-half fumbled and Greig Tonks tobogganed over the line.

But the game was won early in the second half with an unstoppable lineout drive. Eight snowmen might have done a better job of slowing down the driving maul than the visiting pack and Matt Stevens emerged smiling.

Saracens' Ernst Joubert takes a line-out on full stretch

Reach for the sky: Saracens' Ernst Joubert takes a line-out on full stretch

It was Charlie Hodgson who scored the crucial fourth try to cap off another polished performance this season. Edinburgh captain Greg Laidlaw was distracted by Joel Tomkins’ dummy line and Hodgson simply stepped through the defence.

The only question for Saracens now is where to stage April’s quarter-final. Their new Allianz Park 10,000-seater stadium is not large enough so the club are ‘assessing all options’ with Wembley a possibility.

Will Fraserescapes the Edinburgh defence on his way to a break the gain line

Braving the cold: Will Fraserescapes the Edinburgh defence on his way to a break the gain line

The groundsmen did a terrific job to get the match on and have the send-off for Vicarage Road

Snowed under: The groundsmen did a terrific job to get the match on and have the send-off for Vicarage Road

Theo Walcott should copy Thierry Henry – Martin Keown

Walcott should learn from the master… when Henry was in the zone there was no stopping him

|

UPDATED:

09:18 GMT, 31 December 2012

When Thierry Henry was in the zone, he was driven, there was a real fierce determination about him.

You could see it in his eyes. And I think that is coming into Theo Walcott's make-up now.

At the moment, the reason for this is that he wants to prove he deserves to stay at the club. But when that is taken care of, he needs to carry on producing.

In the zone: Thierry Henry gave his team-mates hope with his drive and determination

In the zone: Thierry Henry gave his team-mates hope with his drive and determination

Walcott needs to want it for wanting's sake. He needs to stay in this same thought process because it is bringing the best out of him at the moment.

When Walcott went home on Saturday night, he must have felt like a proud man – on top of the world with a tremendous feeling of satisfaction.

He needs to want to produce that same feeling next time he steps out on the pitch.

You do not stop until you feel that joy of winning, and that comes from scoring the goals that win matches.

Henry gave us tremendous hope. Without those players, you do not finish off the hard work because you don't score goals.

This transition from winger to centre forward has been seven years in the making and the club have probably been waiting for this to happen.

And right now, it's like Walcott is saying: 'Take a look at me at centre forward. This is where I really want to play.'

Main man: Walcott was in exceptional form against Newcastle

Main man: Walcott was in exceptional form against Newcastle

Expertly done: Theo Walcott showed his ability to play in the middle for Arsenal

Expertly done: Theo Walcott showed his ability to play in the middle for Arsenal

There is much more purpose and precision, and there seems to be a shift in his mentality, underlined by the way he took his third goal.

Walcott gets knocked to the ground but bounces back up again looking for a goal. There's that hunger to score – the same hunger Henry had.

Furthermore, his first goal had all the precision of Henry. And for me, that is the difference; he is more clinical in front of goal.

There was not the consistency to his finishing three or four years ago, but that consistency is there now. And I think that has come with a change of mindset.

Yes, he has maybe proved a point. But what he has to focus on is scoring goals and winning games for Arsenal. It's not about just performing well and looking good.

I think maybe, in the past, there has been that element to his game. But if you focus on what matters, winning football matches, it is easier as a professional footballer to go out there and do well.

Back in town: Henry is currently back training with his former club

Back in town: Henry is currently back training with his former club

The Walcott should copy Thierry Henry – Martin Keown

Walcott should learn from the master… when Henry was in the zone there was no stopping him

|

UPDATED:

23:35 GMT, 30 December 2012

When Thierry Henry was in the zone, he was driven, there was a real fierce determination about him.

You could see it in his eyes. And I think that is coming into Theo Walcott's make-up now.

At the moment, the reason for this is that he wants to prove he deserves to stay at the club. But when that is taken care of, he needs to carry on producing.

In the zone: Thierry Henry gave his team-mates hope with his drive and determination

In the zone: Thierry Henry gave his team-mates hope with his drive and determination

Walcott needs to want it for wanting's sake. He needs to stay in this same thought process because it is bringing the best out of him at the moment.

When Walcott went home on Saturday night, he must have felt like a proud man – on top of the world with a tremendous feeling of satisfaction.

He needs to want to produce that same feeling next time he steps out on the pitch.

You do not stop until you feel that joy of winning, and that comes from scoring the goals that win matches.

Henry gave us tremendous hope. Without those players, you do not finish off the hard work because you don't score goals.

This transition from winger to centre forward has been seven years in the making and the club have probably been waiting for this to happen.

And right now, it's like Walcott is saying: 'Take a look at me at centre forward. This is where I really want to play.'

Main man: Walcott was in exceptional form against Newcastle

Main man: Walcott was in exceptional form against Newcastle

Expertly done: Theo Walcott showed his ability to play in the middle for Arsenal

Expertly done: Theo Walcott showed his ability to play in the middle for Arsenal

There is much more purpose and precision, and there seems to be a shift in his mentality, underlined by the way he took his third goal.

Walcott gets knocked to the ground but bounces back up again looking for a goal. There's that hunger to score – the same hunger Henry had.

Furthermore, his first goal had all the precision of Henry. And for me, that is the difference; he is more clinical in front of goal.

There was not the consistency to his finishing three or four years ago, but that consistency is there now. And I think that has come with a change of mindset.

Yes, he has maybe proved a point. But what he has to focus on is scoring goals and winning games for Arsenal. It's not about just performing well and looking good.

I think maybe, in the past, there has been that element to his game. But if you focus on what matters, winning football matches, it is easier as a professional footballer to go out there and do well.

Back in town: Henry is currently back training with his former club

Back in town: Henry is currently back training with his former club

Tottenham"s Mousa Dembele on why he is not the new Luca Modric

I like to play the beautiful game but I'm not the new Modric, says Spurs star Dembele

|

UPDATED:

23:09 GMT, 28 December 2012

Mousa Dembele is explaining why he does not score many goals — just six in the Barclays Premier League since joining Fulham in August 2010.

The Tottenham midfielder takes his time and chooses his words carefully, exhibiting the same calm, unhurried manner and balance with which he plays.

It’s not a lack of confidence, he says, but a desire to score the right kind of goal; to ‘do it nice and beautiful’. Welcome to the relaxed, laid-back world of Planet Dembele, where time seems to tick at a different pace and style is everything.

Relaxed: Mousa Dembele was confident he would make an impact in England

Relaxed: Mousa Dembele was confident he would make an impact in England

‘I just like to play, to pass the ball and dribble,’ says the Belgium star. ‘When I was young I never shot. I always wanted to dribble the ball in the goal. I don’t want to shoot because I don’t like to, but it’s different now. You have more experience and you think more.

‘Is it about scoring the perfect goal Yes, maybe. Before I always played on the street with two lampposts that were like a basketball pitch, and we could not shoot. You had to dribble and touch the ball on the posts to score. We never shoot the ball.

‘So maybe it’s because I always played on the street and I liked to do it nice and beautiful.’ He smiles, before saying ‘boom’ and mimicking a driving shot from distance.

‘I know now it’s important to shoot and have the combination,’ he adds, ‘not only to dribble but to shoot a lot as well. I try to do this more and more.

Making an impression: Dembele has impressed since making the move across London from Fulham to Tottenham

Making an impression: Dembele has impressed since making the move across London from Fulham to Tottenham

‘It’s true that I have to improve my hunger to score goals and I think in the last two years I have concentrated more on this. I don’t score a lot of goals but before I only thought about playing nice football. Now I try to be more important for the team by trying to score goals as well.’

This is just one of the reasons Dembele (below) believes we have not yet seen the best of him. Since a 5million move to Fulham from AZ Alkmaar, his rise in English football has been swift and he attracted interest from the likes of Real Madrid and

Manchester United before moving to Tottenham for 15m last August.

He is also part of an exciting Belgium team which boasts Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen, Dembele’s team-mate at White Hart Lane, who he has known since he was 11.

International talent: Dembele is part of the highly rated Belgium squad

International talent: Dembele is part of the highly rated Belgium squad

Although a ‘frustrating’ hip injury has limited Dembele’s appearances so far, Spurs have lost just one of the 10 Premier League games he has started.

‘I know where my career will go,’ he says. ‘When I came to England I had the confidence to do something and I’m happy now that I play for a big club.

‘If you hear big clubs are interested it’s always nice to know people appreciate what you do but when Tottenham said, “We want him”, I didn’t have to think twice. I didn’t think about anything else.

‘You have a lot of players here who like to play football and, for me, it’s important that I can play my game as well. I’ve always had a good feeling with Tottenham, for a long time. We have the calibre to play in the Champions League. I believe in our teams and I believe we can do something special.’

Talking a good game: Dembele gets his views across to Sportsmail's Laura Williamson

Talking a good game: Dembele gets his views across to Sportsmail's Laura Williamson

Dembele is a player who works on intuition, he says, for whom it is important to have a ‘good feeling’, but the more dynamic side of this footballer emerges when the name of Luka Modric is raised.

The current Spurs playmaker is adamant he does not feel like a replacement for the diminutive Croat, who moved to Real Madrid last summer.

‘I never saw myself as the replacement for Luka,’ says Dembele. ‘I feel like I’m a totally different player. For me I like to touch the ball as much as possible. I like to do defensive work and attack from midfield. I think I can do both.

‘If you had asked me who were the best five players in England last season he would have been in my top five. I’m very much impressed by him. But he’s a different kind of style. I don’t feel like his replacement.’

At 6ft 1in Dembele has the physical attributes to be a midfield powerhouse, yet his football education at Germinal Beerschot in Antwerp, a club who work closely with Ajax, and from playing football in the street has given him the technique and close ball- control of a creative playmaker.

You get the distinct impression,
however, that Dembele is still learning. He thinks he can improve ‘in
every aspect’ and has ‘a feeling that I’m not at my top yet’. Football
still seems new to this 25-year-old, who is certainly not a football
‘freak’, as he puts it. Far from it, in fact.

He
cannot name a footballing hero because he never used to watch his sport
on television. Even now, he can usually suffer just 30 minutes at a
time — and then it has to be a ‘top team’ featuring a player or team the
midfielder knows well.

He
prefers going to the theatre or to watch a musical in the West End.
Jersey Boys is his favourite and he knows all the Frankie Valli and the
Four Seasons songs because he has seen it three times. ‘I never watched
football,’ says Dembele.

Not prolific in front of goal: Dembele has not scored many goals since arriving in England

Not prolific in front of goal: Dembele has not scored many goals since arriving in England

‘I could not watch a game for 10 minutes. But in the last three years I’ve started watching football more and more, and now I watch quite a lot. I find it more interesting. Before, I just wanted to play football. Now I can watch it.

‘I like to watch the top teams in
different countries, like Spain or Bayern Munich in Germany. The rest I
don’t watch. I have nothing to do with that.

‘I’m not a freak. I know guys who watch every game. I’m not like that. I need to know someone or have a bit of history.

‘Ninety
minutes Impossible. Maybe 30 minutes, then 10 minutes doing something
else, then another 20 minutes. Ninety minutes is too long.’

Game face on: Dembele taking part in the EA Sports Games console challenge

Game face on: Dembele taking part in the EA Sports Games console challenge

He also found it nerve-racking watching Spurs play while he was injured and would change channel if Andre Villas-Boas’s side were winning — just in case he brought them bad luck.

‘It was strange because normally I’m very relaxed,’ he says.

‘But I was nervous because sometimes we were winning and then I would think, “If I keep watching they’re not going to win”. And I would turn the TV over and keep an eye on the live scores. I’m not really superstitious but with this, yes, I was.

‘I’m usually quite relaxed but it depends how we lose a game as well. I’m always very disappointed but sometimes it’s a bit more difficult. After the game against Everton (when Spurs conceded two late goals and lost 2-1) it took me a while to be relaxed.

‘But even more with this team because you have a feeling you can beat every team there is, so if you don’t play good or we don’t win it’s more difficult to accept it. But it’s OK, it’s life.’

Mousa Dembele was speaking at the Need for Speed Most Wanted Pro Player tournament. Need for Speed Most Wanted is out now for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Playstation VITA, PC, iOS and Android.

Roberto Mancini blasts Manchester City after Sunderland defeat

You bunch of softies! Mancini blasts City flops after Sunderland defeat

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UPDATED:

19:15 GMT, 26 December 2012

Roberto Mancini accused his Manchester City players of being too soft after seeing them slip seven points behind leaders Manchester United with defeat at 'lucky' Sunderland.

City went down by the only goal for the third successive season at the Stadium of Light, while their neighbours came from behind three times to defeat Newcastle 4-3 at Old Trafford to extend their lead at the top.

Mancini insisted his men had only themselves to blame after not making the most of the chances they created before succumbing to former team-mate Adam Johnson's 53rd-minute strike.

Fortunate: Mancini said Sunderland were 'lucky' to beat Manchester City

Fortunate: Mancini said Sunderland were 'lucky' to beat Manchester City

Familiar face: Former City player Adam Johnson scored the winner for Sunderland

Familiar face: Former City player Adam Johnson scored the winner for Sunderland

Mancini said: 'We deserved to win this game. We had a lot of chances, we played well, but we didn't score.

'This is our problem, we don't score, we don't score enough goals to win the game.

'Last year, we scored one, two, three goals every game. Now when we have chances, we are too soft and this is not good.

'We are too soft in attack, too soft when we have chances, too soft when we shoot. Sometimes we don't shoot, we want to have one touch more. This is not good.'

The Black Cats, who took four points from City last season and were the only side to leave the Etihad Stadium with something to show for their efforts, defended resolutely to ensure Johnson's contribution was decisive, but Mancini was less than gracious in his assessment of the game.

He said: 'I think they [Sunderland] are really lucky against us at home because you can't create every time 15, 20 chances like this year, last year, two years ago and in the end, you lose the game.

'They are very lucky against us. They defend well, but we need to be stronger when we have a chance to score.'

Chances: Mancini wasn't happy with how many opportunities his team spurned

Chances: Mancini wasn't happy with how many opportunities his team spurned

Opposite number Martin O'Neill, however, was not in the slightest bit interested in Mancini's view.

He said: 'Honestly, I am really not particularly bothered, I am genuinely not bothered about what Roberto Mancini would say about the team.

'I have seen it before with other managers. I'm not bothered. I thought we were terrific today.'

The game was settled by Johnson's second-half effort, but it was one which left Mancini with more than one cause for complaint.

Both he and Pablo Zabaleta were convinced City should have been awarded a free-kick for Craig Gardner's challenge on the full-back during the build-up, although referee Kevin Friend did not agree.

Sunderland played on and when Carlos Cuellar fed the ball out to Johnson, he cut inside before blasting a long-range shot past keeper Joe Hart, who was caught flat-footed and allowed the ball to squirm past him.

Winner: Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany watch on as Adam Johnson's strike finds the net

Winner: Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany watch on as Adam Johnson's strike finds the net

Johnson initially thought his former team-mate had kept his effort out, but his joy was unbridled as it dawned on him that the ball had indeed ended up in the back of the net.

Mancini, who rather surprisingly absolved Hart of blame for the goal, was scathing when asked for his view of the official's decision to allow play to continue.

He said: 'The referee ate too much for Christmas. He was not in good form. He and the linesman, I think, after Christmas, it can happen to have a bad performance like today.'

City had earlier hit the bar through skipper Vincent Kompany and Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had to make three fine saves from Yaya Toure, David Silva and later Sergio Aguero as the visitors launched a late, but ultimately unsuccessful fightback.

Asked if the performance was Sunderland's best of the season, O'Neill said: 'Considering the opposition, I would have to say yes.

'We gained a bit of confidence form winning against Southampton and took that into the game, but we knew there would be times when we would have to play without the ball and we would have to defend strongly, and we did both of those very well.

'And yet we were able to carve out some great chances in the game.'

Chelsea 8 Aston Villa 0: Chelsea up to third

Chelsea 8 Aston Villa 0: Brilliant Blues back up to third after rout on Lampard landmark

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UPDATED:

22:21 GMT, 23 December 2012

A month ago, hate dripped from the steep tiers at Stamford Bridge as Rafa Benitez appeared on the touchline. Yesterday, the place was thrilled by eight goals. Not once did the Chelsea fans join in song to tell Benitez he wasn’t wanted here.

The last time they saw their team score this many was the final game of the Barclays Premier League season in 2010, when Carlo Ancelotti’s team walloped Wigan to celebrate the first leg of their first Double.

Landmark: Lampard (second left) scored on his 500th Premier League start

Landmark: Lampard (second left) scored on his 500th Premier League start

MATCH FACTS

Chelsea: Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole, Luiz, Lampard (Ramires 61), Moses, Mata (Piazon 74), Hazard, Torres (Oscar 67).

Subs not used: Turnbull, Ferreira, Marin, Ake.

Goals: Torres 3, David Luiz 29, Ivanovic 34, Lampard 58, Ramires 75, 90, Oscar (pen) 79, Hazard 83.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Herd, Clark, Baker, Lowton, Bannan, Westwood (Ireland 57), Lichaj (Elliott 57), Weimann, Holman (Bowery 79), Benteke.

Subs not used: Given, El Ahmadi, Albrighton, Delph.

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)

Attendance: 41,363.

Click here for the latest Premier League table, fixtures and results

But that was Carlo, a free-wheeling and popular manager who implored his players to attack. This was Rafa, a cautious tactician, always alert to danger, who sat down after an 8-0 win to say: ‘We knew they would be dangerous in the counter-attacks.’

Emotions were all over the place as post-Japan Chelsea returned to the Premier League in emphatic style by condemning Aston Villa to the biggest defeat in their 138-year history.

They may have arrived unbeaten in six games but Paul Lambert’s team went home perilously close to the drop zone with the worst goal difference in the division.

Villa were awful but Chelsea were slick and impressive.

There were eight goals from seven different scorers but there could have been many more.

The Blues even missed a penalty but go into Christmas 11 points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand at home to Southampton.

Opener: Fernando Torres got Chelsea off to a flying start

Opener: Fernando Torres got Chelsea off to a flying start

Opener: Fernando Torres got Chelsea off to a flying start

In a month of Benitez, Fernando Torres
has been transformed to the point where he seems to be enjoying his
football and refused to sulk off when he was replaced.

The Spain striker opened the scoring in the third minute, rising to meet a deep cross from Cesar Azpilicueta with a majestic header from the edge of the penalty area.

It was his seventh under the new manager and his seventh in the last six games.

‘He scores when he wants,’ sang the fans in the Matthew Harding Stand, saluting the Benitez factor without giving him credit.

This won’t bother the manager too much. He will take his satisfaction from the aggressive tempo which crushed Villa.

Stunner: Luiz hammered home a free-kick to double the lead

Stunner: Luiz hammered home a free-kick to double the lead

The back five have worked well for
Lambert since centre half and skipper Ron Vlaar was injured but Chelsea
forced them deep, creating space for Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Victor
Moses.

Villa lurched from uncertainty to
desperation. Nathan Baker escaped a strong penalty appeal when he
appeared to hold Torres and Chelsea’s second came when Chris Herd sent
Hazard tumbling.

David Luiz stepped up and scored the
free-kick, a shot which wobbled over the wall and beat goalkeeper Brad
Guzan, a good yard inside his post.

Three and easy: Ivanovic rises to head home

Three and easy: Ivanovic rises to head home

Luiz, signed almost two years ago at
the same time as Torres, has also endured an oscillating career at the
club but appears to have made significant progress under Benitez, who
used him as a deep midfielder yesterday in the absence of John Mikel
Obi, who was banned.

The role suits Luiz, certainly when
Chelsea control possession. He performed it with success against
Monterrey in the Club World Cup semi-final and was comfortable against
Villa.

There is a safety net if he takes an undue risk and loses the
ball, as he did at Leeds in the Capital One Cup, yet his team benefit
from his exuberance and unpredictability in attack.

Club legend: Lampard takes the applause before being substituted after his goal

Club legend: Lampard takes the applause before being substituted after his goal

Club legend: Lampard takes the applause before being substituted after his goal

It was one of those days for
Chelsea. Not only were the converted centre halves threatening Guzan in
the Villa goal but so were the unconverted ones.

Guzan produced a terrific reflex save
to beat out Gary Cahill’s shot on the spin before the interval but the
rebound popped up to his defensive partner Branislav Ivanovic to head in
the third.

Fear took hold, mistakes crept in and Christian Benteke never looked
like scoring. The only chance of any note fell to Andreas Weimann — on
the break, as Benitez predicted — in the second half.

Weimann was denied by Petr Cech, who
deflected his low shot on to the bar to protect his clean sheet, despite
the fact the contest was already over.

Joining the party: Ramires came off the bench to net the fifth

Joining the party: Ramires came off the bench to net the fifth

Frank Lampard scored the fourth with a
right-foot volley from 30 yards. It was his 190th goal for Chelsea —
three behind Kerry Dixon, who stands second in the all-time goal list
for the club — on his 500th Premier League start.

It
was also his 130th top-flight goal for the club. No one has more.
Lampard was replaced a minute later to a standing ovation. Torres was
also taken off to rest ahead of the festive fixtures which will dictate
whether this is to turn into a genuine title fightback.

Six of the best: Oscar scored from the penalty spot

Six of the best: Oscar scored from the penalty spot

With Daniel Sturridge in Liverpool for a
medical, Moses played the last 23 minutes at centre forward and the
Blues finished with a front four of Moses, Oscar, Hazard and Lucas
Piazon, an 18-year-old Brazilian making his Premier League debut.

It was a quartet with an average age
of just over 20 but Piazon wasted no time making an impact, collecting
the ball on the left, gliding inside and finding Ramires, who scored
the fifth. It was a nice pass but did not need to be laser-guided.

Seventh heaven: Hazard slams home from inside the box

Seventh heaven: Hazard slams home from inside the box

Villa were all at sea by this stage and not helped when referee Phil Dowd started to hand out soft penalties.

Herd
was penalised for a slight pull on Oscar, who picked himself up to make
it six from the spot. Hazard lashed the seventh into the top corner and
Piazon missed a second penalty after he was fouled by Ciaran Clark.
Guzan made the save.

It was a very strange afternoon for the American goalkeeper.

Ramires scored the eighth in stoppage time and the Bridge stood to rejoice. For the man they reviled as the Spanish waiter, will it be any different after eight
Relentless: Ramires scores his second in stoppage time

Relentless: Ramires scores his second in stoppage time

Rout: Chelsea move back up to third in the Premier League table

Rout: Chelsea move back up to third in the Premier League table