Frank Lampard scored twice in a 2-1 road victory over Aston Villa on Saturday to claim the three points that all-but secures Chelsea’s place in the Champions League next season as well as becoming the club’s all-time leading goal-scorer.
Christian Benteke had given a Villa side, needing to win themselves to make sure of Premier League survival, the lead when he struck after just 14 minutes. And when Ramires was shown a red card after a second booking just before half-time, the home side looked in command.
But the tide turned when Benteke saw red for two cautions just before the hour mark. Within five minutes Lampard had equalized and with the momentum now in Chelsea’s favor, the midfielder struck a decisive second with two minutes remaining.
That goal took Lampard one clear of previous Chelsea record holder Bobby Tambling on 203 goals for the club. It also put Chelsea six points clear of fifth-place Tottenham in the race for the Champions League. With Spurs having just two games remaining an inferior goal difference by 17 compared to that of Chelsea’s, it would take something extraordinary to prevent the Blues from taking their place in Europe’s premier competition next season.
It had looked like they would be forced to wait, though, as Villa continued their fine recent form in the early stages. Benteke was able to race past Gary Cahill far too easily down the left of the area before finishing past Petr Cech at his near post, who himself might have done more to deny the impressive Belgian’s 18th Premier League goal of the campaign.
Brad Guzan was forced into a fine save to deny Demba Ba midway through the half, while Benteke was lucky just to see a yellow for an elbow on Cesar Azpilicueta.
Ramires was not so fortunate when he received his second yellow card in the final minute of the first period for a high boot on Gabriel Agbonlahor, which, although it made little contact with the forward, was certainly reckless.
Villa pushed for a second at the start of the second half but were derailed when Benteke received his marching orders in the 58th minute as he too went in with a high boot, on John Terry.
Less than three minutes later, Chelsea were level. Lampard equaled the club’s record as he received Eden Hazard’s pass inside the box and took it past a defender on his left foot before firing high past Guzan.
Chelsea thought they had gone in front when the ball looked suspiciously like it had crossed the line in a goal-mouth scramble in the 73rd minute. But the visitors were forced to wait to get the winner.
A delightful one-two down the left of the box got Hazard to the byline and the Belgian drove the ball low across goal where Lampard, as he so often has been, was in the right place at the right time to apply the finish and secure his place in Chelsea history.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.