Over the past few weeks, uncertainty over the future of Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard has hung over Stamford Bridge. The 34-year-old midfielder has openly pledged to want to serve his remaining years as part of the organization, but with Chelsea’s insistence on not offering more than one-year deals to player’s over the age of 30, Lampard’s days in West London could be numbered.
“Frankie Legend” has been rumored to be on the list of Blues players who might not be with the team much longer. Lampard is in his 12th year with Chelsea and has assumed the leadership role of the talented club in the absence of John Terry. After his last two performances and especially after his brace today versus Everton, Lampard is making it extremely difficult for management to send him packing.
Lampard scored two goals at Goodison Park today leading the Blues to a very difficult and somewhat fortunate victory over Everton by the score of 2-1. The Toffees may feel a little bit undone by the result as they pounded numerous shots of the Chelsea woodwork, but two moments of grit and guile by one of Chelsea’s all-time greats was enough to see Chelsea capture their 4th straight league victory and keep pace with both Manchester squads after their victories yesterday.
The game opened up brilliantly for the home side as the Toffees were on the board in the second minute of the game. After a wonderful through ball by midfielder Steven Pienaar, defender Phil Jagielka crossed into the box and found striker Victor Anichebe at the far post. Anichebe’s header rattled the post and Pienaar was there to clean up the rebound, hammering it past Chelsea keeper Petr Cech and giving Everton an early goal that manager David Moyes could only have dreamed of.
Everton looked to keep up the pressure and could have made it 2-0 a number of times, only to fail in the finishing department, Nikica Jelavic had the best chance when he sent a ball of the post from a free kick in the 8th minute. Leon Osman broke through in the 26th minute only to have Cech make a fine save to keep the game manageable for the Blues. This spell early on could have proved fatal to Chelsea, but the Toffees could not cash in and it would cost them.
Chelsea began to establish possession around the 25 minute mark and Ramires began to make his presence known. The slender Brazilian continued making runs at the Everton defense from his midfield position that began to trouble the Toffees. In the 26th minute, Ramires began a counter-attack that led to a 50-yard run that resulted in Chelsea’s best chance when Juan Mata forced Everton keeper Tim Howard into a fine save with his legs, keeping Everton in the lead.
In the 42nd minute, Chelsea were able equalize. Ramires crossed the ball into the box and Lampard rose up to meet it, his header wrong-footing Howard and travelling into the lower right corner of the net, to make it 1-1. This goal completely changed the complexion of the game and Chelsea went into halftime with a renewed sense of urgency.
Troubling news came out of halftime for Chelsea, as keeper Petr Cech had to be substituted due to an leg injury picked up in the first half. Veteran backup Ross Turnbull came on in relief.
When the second half kicked off, not much action took place as both sides looked to break the other down with little success, although Everton seemed to be on the front foot. That all changed in the 69th minute, when Jelavic hit the post for the second time in this contest, this one coming back off the crossbar. Osman crossed the ball and Jelavic met it, clearly beating Turnbull only to see the ball rejected by the bar.
Chelsea would capitalize on their good fortune moments later as a counter-attack was launched by Ramires. After a series of passes, the ball was played to Mata who shot only to see a brilliant save by Howard keep it out of the net. Unfortunately for the American keeper, the ball bounced right to Lampard, who put the rebound in the top of the net, giving Chelsea the 2-1 advantage. The second goal for the Blues was against the run of play, but good teams and savvy players have a way of finishing in important games, which Lampard proved again today.
Everton tried to recover late and Jelavic had one more good opportunity to try to salvage a point in stoppage time, only to see his strike go straight at Turnbull, who comfortably saved the shot. The whistle would blow shortly thereafter ending the game.
While Lampard was the hero today, Ramires was outstanding as well. The midfielder has incredible pace and his work-rate is second to none. He provided questions for the Toffees defense from the 20th minute on today and was the man behind both goals for the Blues. He continues to prove how valuable he can be to the Chelsea midfield.
Credit must also be given to Chelsea’s left-back, Ashley Cole. Cole is very unique in that he plays from end to end on a regular basis, yet very rarely finds himself caught out of position. His industriousness is his greatest asset. He and Eden Hazard are creating a chemistry on the left side of the field that terrifies opponents. Cole also finds himself in the middle of a contract dilemma as he and Lampard’s situations mirror each other. Chelsea need to sign both to extensions soon before they are officially allowed to test the waters as both are vitally important to the success of the team in the near future.
With the victory today, Chelsea remains in third place, four points behind second-place Manchester City, with a game in hand.
Notes: The goal for Lampard makes it his 192nd for the club, one behind the second all-time leading scorer, Kerry Dixon.
The status on Petr Cech’s leg is uncertain. According to ESPN.com, the injury is to Cech’s adductor muscle. He will undergo scans and treatment over the next couple of days.The Blues cannot afford to miss him for any serious length of time, as he is absolutely critical to the success of the squad.
This was the first loss in league play for Everton at Goodison Park this season.
Under Rafa Benitez, Chelsea’s defense has stiffened. In every game since the Spaniard took over, Chelsea has held an opponent to one goal or less, currently a run of 11 games.
Chelsea’s next game is on Wednesday, Jan. 2nd against Queens Park Rangers at Stamford Bridge.
According to Rafa Benitez, John Terry will miss the game against QPR as he is still recovering from a knee injury.