Frank Lampard proved his enduring value to Chelsea on Sunday by reaching 200 goals for the European champions in a 2-0 victory over former club West Ham United to lift his current team to third in the Premier League.
Lampard, who switched to west London from east 12 years ago, opened the scoring by rising to meet Eden Hazard’s dinked ball and head past goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Lampard’s 12th goal of the season put him just two behind Bobby Tambling’s Chelsea record of 202, but his future after this season remains uncertain with no offer of a new contract.
“Everyone keeps talking about the goal-scoring record,” the 34-year-old Lampard said. “I would rather people kept quiet. The important thing is trying to score goals to win games.”
The only sour note at Stamford Bridge was Lampard appearing to be targeted by coins thrown by West Ham fans as he celebrated the milestone in an incident now being investigated by the police.
“When you score 200 goals you don’t think too much about where you go,” Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez said. “You celebrate and afterwards we realized he would’ve been better to be in another part.”
The second goal came five minutes into the second half, with Hazard completing a neat interplay with Juan Mata to put Chelsea on course for Champions League qualification.
With Tottenham losing 1-0 to Fulham, Chelsea moved a point ahead of the north London club into third place at the end of a successful week for Benitez’s side.
A comeback at Manchester United in the FA Cup last Sunday to force a replay was followed up by a Europa League victory over Steaua Bucharest to reach the quarterfinals on Thursday.
“We are in good form,” Lampard said. “There is a good feeling around the place and we need to carry it on until the end of the season.”
Even the jeering Benitez has faced from Chelsea fans since acrimoniously taking charge in November appeared to disappear on Sunday.
“If the team is playing well, the fans will enjoy it,” Benitez said. “I’m really pleased with the atmosphere and really pleased with the team.”
Benitez’s job before vacating the Stamford Bridge hotseat in the summer is to ensure the team is back in the Champions League next season.
That is looking more likely, with Arsenal five points back and Chelsea playing with the flair and confidence that was evident in the opening weeks of the season before the collapse that cost Roberto Di Matteo his job.
Chelsea needs its strikers to be more prolific, though. Fernando Torres hasn’t scored in the league in three months, and Demba Ba just twice in the league since arriving in January.
“Normally in the training sessions he is quite good and a great finisher,” Benitez said.
Wigan Beats Newcastle 2-1
Arouna Kone boosted Wigan’s chances of staying in the Premier League with a late goalon Sunday to secure a 2-1 win over Newcastle in a game that was marred by an ugly tackle on Massadio Haidara.
Kone slotted in the winner in the 90th minute after a goalmouth scramble following a corner, with the Newcastle players all appealing for handball on Maynor Figueroa.
Newcastle had been even more furious earlier following Callum McManaman’s wreckless knee-high challenge on Haidara in the first half, which went unpunished by referee Mark Halsey.
Haidara had to be carried off on a stretcher and was taken to a hospital for evaluation, and Newcastle’s anger spilled over into a halftime scuffle with furious assistant manager John Carver having to be restrained as he tried to confront McManaman.
Wigan had gone in front in the 18th through Jean Beasejour, with Davide Santon equalizing for Newcastle in the 72nd. But Kone’s late goal ensured that Wigan is now three points from safety with a game in hand on Aston Villa.
But it was McManaman’s tackle that remained the talking point after the game, with Newcastle manager Alan Pardew fewing.
“The tackle was awful, and we’ve lost the game in the last minute to what I think is a handball, and also got a boy going to hospital,” Pardew said. “In all honesty it’s difficult to take and difficult to talk about at this stage.”
Pardew said it was too early to give any injury details for Haidara.
“It’s not going to be good because the tackle was so bad,” Pardew said. “It looks like knee ligaments and bad bruising and that’s the best we can hope for.”
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez defended McManaman and said the tackle was an accident.
“No-one wants to see that but I guarantee that is just a striker trying to win the ball over-enthusiastically because he is making his (full league) debut,” Martinez said. “What you need to look at in those incidents is if there is intention, a nastiness about the tackle. We are not a nasty team.”