Belfast Telegraph

Lampard 'playing like he's 18'

Frank Lampard is "still playing like he's 18 years old" and driving Manchester City's Premier League title race with former club Chelsea, according to Pablo Zabaleta.

Full-back Zabaleta hailed Lampard's growing influence as the City hierarchy consider whether to seek an extension to the 36-year-old's Etihad Stadium loan deal.

Former Chelsea and England midfielder Lampard fired his 174th Premier League goal in City's 3-0 victory at Southampton on Sunday.

The ex-West Ham star is scheduled to join New York City FC in January after leaving Chelsea last summer, but Manchester City remain keen to extend his stay in the north west.

"For me what makes Frank Lampard special is how professional he is in training: this is what I appreciate from him," said Zabaleta.

"You see him at training: he is the first to arrive on the training ground and the last to go home.

"He won everything with Chelsea, he's a legend in football and he's still playing like he's 18 years old."

Lampard coolly slotted City's second and decisive goal at St Mary's on Sunday, helping Manuel Pellegrini's side shrug off a red card for defender Eliaquim Mangala.

City leapfrogged Saints into second place in the Premier League table, closing the gap on leaders Chelsea to six points.

Lampard played the full 90 minutes in City's midweek 3-2 Champions League victory over Bayern Munich, before climbing off the bench to cement his loan club's win at Southampton.

Dependable defender Zabaleta said 106-cap former England midfielder Lampard has boosted reigning champions City's early league form, before hailing the continued form of striker Sergio Aguero.

Aguero was booked by referee Mike Jones for diving even though he was crudely upended by Saints defender Jose Fonte and denied a clear penalty.

The in-form Argentina hitman channelled any frustrations to play a hand in two of City's three goals, impressing again after his vital hat-trick against Bayern.

"Frank was great, but I also think the whole team were fantastic on Sunday," said Zabaleta.

"We were very solid at the back and we defended very well.

"Obviously we made the difference at the end with the great finishes by Yaya Toure, Frank Lampard and Gael Clichy so I am proud of the team because those three points are very well deserved.

"Sergio has been fantastic for the team: at the moment he's probably been one of the best players.

"That is always what you expect from a top player. I hope Sergio can continue like that, it's fantastic."

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