Lampard’s 200th Chelsea goal helps Blues to third

EARNED PLAUDITS: Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard

EARNED PLAUDITS: Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard

First published in Football

Final Score: Chelsea 2 West Ham 0

FRANK LAMPARD scored his 200th Chelsea goal as the Blues climbed to third in the Barclays Premier League with victory over his old club in the London derby at Stamford Bridge.

On his 595th Chelsea appearance, Lampard headed in an Eden Hazard cross after 19 minutes to move within two of Bobby Tambling’s club scoring record of 202 goals.

Former West Ham striker Demba Ba should have scored three times in the first half, but Chelsea went two up when the impressive Hazard netted after 50 minutes.

Victory took Rafael Benitez’s side above Tottenham in the race for a Champions League qualifying place, with a game in hand.

What a difference a week makes as Chelsea – and their much-derided interim boss Benitez – carried the momentum from the second half at Manchester United and Thursday night’s Europa League win over Steaua Bucharest to remain on course for their remaining targets entering the international break.

The internationals offer brief respite for the Blues before the season resumes in earnest with six games in 16 days, beginning at Southampton on March 30.

In Chelsea’s 53rd match of the season and fifth of a month in which West Ham had played just once, the visitors were seeking to become the first team to do a Premier League double over the Blues this term.

The Hammers had won two of their last four games and had hoped to enhance their poor away record against a Chelsea side showing four changes from the one which began Thursday’s defeat of Steaua.

Lampard was captain, having been an unused substitute against the Romanians, with John Terry named on the bench against the team who inflicted the first defeat of Benitez’s tenure on December 6.

Chelsea last lost at home to West Ham in September 2002 and had won five of their previous six at Stamford Bridge, where the hostility towards Benitez has reduced sufficiently that the 16th-minute ovation to his Champions League-winning predecessor Roberto Di Matteo was not observed.

Perhaps that was because Blues fans were distracted when Terry was called upon to warm up after treatment for Gary Cahill.

The former England captain turned his back on the visiting fans abusing him to stretch his hamstrings and moments later was celebrating Lampard’s milestone.

Lampard was unmarked when he met Hazard’s clipped cross from the right channel with a firm header for his first goal since his strike in the FA Cup fourth-round replay with Brentford.

He celebrated his 12th league goal of the season in front of the away end and with Terry, with the visiting support expressing their displeasure by hurling objects the duo’s way.

Lampard moved across London from Upton Park in 2001 for £11m and in his 12 years at Stamford Bridge has established himself as a prolific goalscoring midfielder.

The Blue half of Stamford Bridge acclaimed Lampard, whose future remains uncertain with his current contract scheduled to expire at the end of the season.

Chelsea would have been in front earlier had Ba converted instead of slicing wide when played in by Lampard in the seventh minute.

In the first half West Ham rarely threatened – Andy Carroll had a strike chalked off for a push in the back on David Luiz – and the Blues should have been out of sight by the interval.

Jussi Jaaskelainen saved a low David Luiz free-kick and twice denied Ba when the striker had been found by Victor Moses, who also shot wide on the turn from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross as West Ham again left a Chelsea player in space in the box.

Juan Mata curled off target, a spectacular Luiz left-footed volley went narrowly wide and Chelsea’s dominance continued after the break.

Hazard collected an attacking throw-in down the right, linked with Mata and was allowed to drift across the area.

The Belgian went past a hapless Winston Reid and James Collins before shooting left-footed and low into the bottom corner.

Jack Collison, Gary O’Neil and Carroll, twice, tried but failed to trouble Petr Cech before Reid was booked for cynically pulling back Mata as the Spaniard forged forward.

Hazard had a shot blocked by Joey O’Brien and Ba shot wide under pressure from Reid, while Terry came on for a 12-minute cameo appearance, replacing Luiz, who hobbled off and straight down the tunnel in the 78th minute.

Hammers substitute Carlton Cole got in front of Cahill at the near post but Cech saved and Carroll headed over from a late corner for the Hammers, who were then fortunate not to concede a third.

Lampard ballooned a shot over from Oscar’s cross after 86 minutes before soaking up the acclaim at the end.

Well rested after missing the Steaua Bucharest win on Thursday night, Lampard was full of running and showed no signs of age catching up with him, always coming from deep to offer himself at the edge of the area. It was a performance which suggested Lampard is capable of continuing at the highest level.

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