Scroll to Photostream above for match photos. Click on the tab above for match stats. Manager reaction below
Frank Lampard scored his 198th goal for Chelsea as Rafael Benitez’s side ended a four-match winless run with a 4-1 victory over Wigan Athletic.
When Eden Hazard scored after 56 minutes, doubling the advantage provided by Ramires’s 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 a defensive mistake to halve the deficit and the relegation-threatened visitors might have had a penalty when Ronnie Stam’s shot struck Ashley Cole on the arm.
Again it fell to Lampard to save rescue Chelsea, 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.
Chelsea had won 12 and lost one of 15 prior Premier League meetings with Wigan, who were welcome visitors to Stamford Bridge. There were four changes from the Blues side which lost at Newcastle, with Lampard captain as a result of John Terry’s knee injury.
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.
Hazard had an effort blocked before a Lampard free-kick was flicked on by Fernando Torres and went narrowly wide. Having missed an early chance with a hesitant prodded effort, Torres had a key role in the opening goal. Turning provider, he dropped deep to meet David Luiz’s pass and played the ball first time for Ramires, who was rampaging into the right channel. The Brazilian lifted the ball over the onrushing Ali Al Habsi with great composure.
The goal gave relief and confidence to Chelsea. Cesar Azpilicueta, who made his Spain debut in midweek, charged down the right and crossed for his compatriot Torres, who saw his powerful header tipped over by Al Habsi. Lampard’s bouncing shot went narrowly wide from 25 yards and David Luiz ballooned an effort over soon after.
Wigan’s attempt to reply before half-time was aided when an Oscar pass hit referee Mike Dean and rolled in the visitors’ favour. Maloney crossed from the right and Azpilicueta had to head behind, with James McArthur lurking at the back post. Oscar curled over as the first half came to a close and Lampard had an effort blocked on the resumption.
Chelsea doubled their advantage when Gary Cahill’s free-kick found Azpilicueta, who cut inside and rolled a pass to Hazard. The Belgian struck a first-time shot into the net to celebrate his return from a three-match ban.
Chelsea relaxed a little too much and Wigan pounced. Maloney beat the offside trap wide on the right to meet 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.
Single-handedly Lampard tried to raise his side, beating McCarthy in the left of the area before shooting wide across goal.
Wigan appealed for a penalty when a Stam shot appeared to hit 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. Torres almost got in on the act in injury time but saw his rebound from Ramires’s shot saved.
Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez: “It's always important to win, it was a good game against a good team. They like to play football, we scored the goals at the end but we had the chances and I felt the players worked very hard.
“The opportunity to use more players was much better for us. We were able to use David Luiz and Eden Hazard, so we moved Ramires to the right. That was crucial for us as we knew they would play with three at the back so we knew he would be an important player. He did well with [Fernando] Torres and scored the first goal, so I was really pleased.
'Oscar had a bit of cramp, Gary Cahill did as well, because they are playing so many games and they were away on international break. We were able to move David Luiz to centre-back, and we didn't have that option before, [Juan] Mata was on the bench and we were able to bring him on for Oscar, so it was really good. In the past it was more difficult to change the game.
'I was also able to use Yossi [Benayoun] and Marko Marin, so it's much better now as we are able to manage the game in a different way. With [Victor] Moses and [John] Mikel Obi back, we will have two more options. It's important for us to have more bodies because you can change players for others with fresh legs and with the quality we have it will be easier.”
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez: “Because we wanted to make sure we got a positive result, we left ourselves slightly exposed towards the end of the game. On the counter-attack Chelsea are one of the best teams in the league.
"We were long enough in Chelsea's defensive third, and we had that presence there. I did feel that, if we'd got the equaliser, the ending would have been very interesting."
|24 Feb 2013||v Man City (A)|
|02 Mar 2013||v West Brom (H)|
|17 Mar 2013||v West Ham (H)|
|30 Mar 2013||v Southampton (A)|
|07 Apr 2013||v Sunderland (H)|
|17 Apr 2013||v Fulham (A)|