Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Blues halt slump

Frank Lampard, left, was on target again for Chelsea

Frank Lampard scored his 198th Chelsea goal to seal a 4-1 victory over Wigan, end a four-match winless run and ease the pressure on interim boss Rafael Benitez.

When Eden Hazard scored after 56 minutes, doubling the advantage provided by Ramires' 23rd-minute opener, Chelsea appeared to be cruising towards three points and a return to third place in the Barclays Premier League but Shaun Maloney seized on yet another defensive mistake to halve the deficit

Again it fell to Lampard, whose future is uncertain, to save the Blues, his 86th-minute third moving him within four of Bobby Tambling's club goalscoring record of 202, before substitute Marko Marin added a stoppage-time fourth.

Petr Cech, who was playing with a finger injury, was tested twice early on, firstly when Franco Di Santo forced him to save smartly with his feet and then when Maloney curled a left-footed effort from the right channel to stretch the goalkeeper.

Fernando Torres had a key role in the opening goal, turning provider when he dropped deep to meet David Luiz's pass and played the ball on first time for Ramires, rampaging into the right channel. The Brazilian showed composure to lift the ball over the on-rushing Ali Al Habsi.

Chelsea doubled their advantage when Gary Cahill's free-kick found Cesar Azpilicueta, who cut inside and rolled a pass to Hazard. He struck a first-time shot into the net to celebrate his return from a three-match ban for kicking a ball boy.

As has happened all too often lately when ahead, the Blues relaxed a little too much and Wigan pounced. Maloney beat the offside trap wide on the right to meet James McArthur's pass and Cech raced to meet him. The goalkeeper was unable to reach the ball and was rounded by the Scot, who netted from a narrow angle.

Wigan appealed for a penalty when a Ronnie Stam shot appeared to hit Ashley Cole's arm before substitute Arouna Kone was allowed to make space for a shot, which did not trouble Cech.

It was tense until Lampard's intervention. Hazard took the ball down the left and passed to the edge of the area. Juan Mata stepped over the ball, leaving it for Lampard, who drilled into the bottom corner with trademark precision.

A fourth came when Al Habsi could only parry a swerving shot from Azpilicueta and substitute Marin headed in the rebound for his first Chelsea goal.

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