Jon Walters scored an unfortunate brace of headed own-goals and missed a late penalty as Chelsea won 4-0 at Stoke City to reclaim third place in the Premier League on Saturday.
Frank Lampard also got on the score-sheet to become Chelsea’s second-highest all-time goal-scorer, as Rafael Benitez’s side bounced back from their 2-0 loss to Swansea City in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final.
Chelsea made the breakthrough in first-half injury time at the Britannia Stadium when Walters inadvertently put Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross past his own goalkeeper with a bullet header.
Improbably, Walters then diverted a Juan Mata corner into his own goal to make it 2-0 in the 62nd minute and three minutes later Lampard blasted home his 194th Chelsea goal from the penalty spot after Mata went down in the Stoke box.
Stoke had not been beaten at home all season, but that record was shattered, with Eden Hazard adding a superb fourth in the 73rd minute with a sweetly struck left-foot shot from 25 yards.
Chelsea captain John Terry made his return from a two-month injury lay-off as a late substitute and although he conceded a penalty for a foul on Walters, the Ireland international compounded his misfortune by blazing the spot-kick over.
“We knew it would be physical and intense, but we were ready for that,” Benitez said. “The goal changed the game because they had to go forward and left space, which meant little by little we could control the game.”
Chelsea’s victory took them back into third place after the previous incumbents, Tottenham Hotspur, were held to a 0-0 draw at Queens Park Rangers.
Spurs striker Jermain Defoe came close to opening the scoring in the first half with a 20-yard strike that crashed back off the post, with QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar reacting brilliantly to save Emmanuel Adebayor’s follow-up.
The hosts’ best chances both fell to Shaun Wright-Phillips, but he could not find the target on either occasion.
Julio Cesar also thwarted Defoe in the second period, while Tottenham full-back Kyle Walker whipped a free-kick inches over the crossbar.
“They defended very well; we wanted to play with a higher tempo, but they frustrate you,” Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas said. “Julio Cesar had a great game. It was a difficult game for us, but we got an away point, so we are satisfied.”
Following the shock 1-0 win at Chelsea in their previous outing, QPR are now five points from safety with 16 games to play.
However, they remain at the bottom of the table after Reading avoided slipping to the foot of the standings by storming back from two goals down to win 3-2 in extraordinary fashion at home to West Bromwich Albion.
A Romelu Lukaku brace had put the visitors in control, but Reading scored three times in the last eight minutes through Jimmy Kebe, Adam Le Fondre and Pavel Pogrebnyak to give their fight to avoid relegation a shot in the arm.
“You have to believe in the players that we’ve got,” Reading manager Brian McDermott said. “I think the crowd here, they don’t know how important to us they really are. They got us over the line here today.”
Aston Villa’s miserable week continued as they lost 1-0 at home to Southampton to slip into the relegation zone.
Beaten 3-1 by fourth-tier Bradford City in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final on Tuesday last week, Paul Lambert’s men went down to a 34th-minute Rickie Lambert penalty and have now gone five league games without a win.