Lampard hits 200th Chelsea goal in West Ham win
LONDON (AP) — 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 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.
Ba was presented with the perfect chance to score after five minutes but couldn’t connect with Mata’s cross as he stretched out.
An even better opening was squandered two minute later when Lampard pumped the ball through, Ba ran onto it past James Collins but clipped the shot well wide.
Collins himself rifled over in a rare threatening moment from West Ham before Ba turned the ball wide away and Jaaskelainen palmed away Mata’s shot.
After Lampard’s landmark goal in the 19th minute, Andy Carroll had an equalizer ruled out three minutes later when he was adjudged to have fouled David Luiz in the buildup.
“It was a brilliant dive by David Luiz and I think that bought him the foul,” West Ham manager Sam Allardyce said.
Carroll tried again to level, rising to meet Matt Jarvis’ cross but he glanced the header wide to miss out on adding to his three goals at the club during his loan spell from Liverpool.
Jaaskelainen continued to prevent Chelsea strengthening its advantage, turning Luiz’s low free kick round the post, collecting Hazard’s shot and denying Ba with an outstretched left leg when they were one-on-one before half time.
After the break there was little the goalkeeper could do to prevent Hazard scoring.
Mata chipped the ball forward to Hazard, who brought it down on his chest, cut past Winston Reid and struck with his left foot into the net.
The game was won now, although Lampard searched for further goals to reach the club’s scoring record. The closest he came in the second half was when the sting was taken out of a free kick by a deflection.
West Ham is six points above the relegation zone.
“It was a tough afternoon with the talent of Mata and Hazard particularly,” Allardyce said. “Sometimes you just have to admire the talent.”