Late goals from Frank Lampard and Marko Marin helped Chelsea secure a 4-1 victory over Wigan at Stamford Bridge.
With intense pressure on manager Rafael Benitez coming into the match, it was little surprise that Chelsea were not at their best. But a well taken first-half opener and a goal from the returning Eden Hazard after the break put the home side in command.
The tension soon returned to the Bridge just two minutes later, though, as Shaun Maloney pulled one back for the Latics. There was considerable relief as Lampard took his goal tally to within four of the club’s record with four minutes remaining before, at the other end of the scale, Marin got his first Chelsea goal.
Despite having been in charge for less than three months, there were reports in the buildup to the game that a poor result against relegation-threatened Wigan would lead to him becoming the latest man to be shown the door by owner Roman Abramovich.
Benitez elected to start with Fernando Torres up front with Demba Ba still nursing a broken nose suffered last weekend. While the beleaguered Spaniard missed two early chances, he played a key part in Chelsea’s opener after 23 minutes.
Torres played a first-time return pass to the on-rushing Ramires and the Brazilian finished with aplomb past Ali Al-Habsi.
Chelsea looked on their way to the three points in the 56th minute. A quickly taken free-kick got Cesar Azpilicueta free down the right and the full-back did well to bide his time and then pick out Hazard with a pull back and the Belgian drove the ball low past the despairing dive of Al-Habsi.
But Wigan were soon firmly back in the contest when Petr Cech made the bizarre and costly decision to surge out from the Chelsea goal to try and stop a through ball reaching Maloney. Cech got nowhere near it, but Maloney was forced wide and did exceptionally to find the unguarded net from a tight angle.
Wigan will feel that they should have had the chance to tie the scores up as they were denied a penalty when the ball struck the outstretched arm of Ashley Cole in the box.
Chelsea escaped and soon ensured the three points. Eden Hazard pulled the ball back to the edge of the box, substitute Juan Mata smartly let the ball run and Lampard finished with familiar conviction.
There was still just enough time for Marin to get his landmark goal. Al-Habsi parried away Azpilicueta’s rising drive, but only as far as Marin who launched himself forward to head the ball into the net.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.