Frank Lampard scored twice to become Chelsea’s all-time record goalscorer as they came from behind to beat Aston Villa, with both teams having a man sent off.
Lampard’s late brace saw him surpass Bobby Tambling’s total of 202 and leave the Blues all but assured of Champions League football next season, while Villa’s fate remains undetermined at the bottom.
The home side had been in superb of late to pull away from the relegation zone and took a deserved lead in the 15th minute when Christian Benteke exchanged passes with Yacob Sylla and skipped past Gary Cahill before slotting the ball past Petr Cech at the near post.
It was the Belgian striker’s 23rd goal in all competitions but he was yellow carded by referee Lee Mason later in the half for a cynical elbow on Cesar Azpilcueta. Prior to that Chelsea went close to equalising with Demba Ba having his close range toe poke hacked off the line and Brad Guzan denying Juan Mata and Frank Lampard.
Then came the first red card of the afternoon as an already booked Ramires was sent for an early bath on the stroke of half time following a high challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor. And the same fate befell Benteke after the interval as he committed a similar offence on John Terry to earn his marching orders.
With the numerical disadvantage eradicated Chelsea took control and Lampard equalled Tambling’s record tally, picking up the ball from Eden Hazard on the edge of the area, shifted it onto his left and crashed an explosive strike past Guzan.
He then took the club scoring crown with a trademark mark goal. The 34-year-old started the move outside the box before timing his run to perfection to tap in Hazard’s low cross from two-yards out to set the Blues up for the Europa League final on Wednesday. Villa, meanwhile, must wait until their final day showdown with Wigan to confirm they’ll be a top-flight club next season.
Paul Lambert post-match…“We should have won the game. I thought we looked great and played good football, we had a good tempo. Some of the decisions today were bizarre. The referee missed the John Terry one, he’s taken down Yacouba Sylla. You’ve got to be big enough to make that decision.”
Rafael Benitez post-match…“It [qualifying for the Champions League] was a great achievement. With a lot of games we have played, it was difficult but we did well. It was a dramatic game. The sending-off for us was a big problem. We had to change our game plan at 11 v 10. When Christian Benteke was sent off it made a difference.”
Man of the Match…Frank Lampard: How can Chelsea even contemplate letting the 34-year-old leave in the future? A vintage midfield display from Lampard bore two trademark goals to earn the Blues three points to become the clubs record goalscorer. All in a days work.
Flop of the Match…Christian Benteke: Made it 14 goals in 2013 with the opener to send Villa in at the break ahead but his red card in the second half was the turning point. Two thoughtless offences earned him an early bath and led to Villa’s collapse.