Frank Lampard provided a timely reminder of his value to Chelsea by scoring twice as his side reclaimed third place in the Premier League by coming from behind to win 2-1 at Everton on Sunday.
The 34-year-old England midfielder, whose contract expires at the end of the season, canceled out Steven Pienaar’s opener shortly before halftime and then claimed the winner with 18 minutes remaining at Goodison Park.
Victory moved Rafael Benitez’s side above Tottenham Hotspur into third place, four points behind second-place Manchester City and with a game in hand, while Everton remain sixth, three points below the top four.
“It was very hard. This is always one of the most difficult games of the season,” Lampard said. “We got a [2-0] tanking here last year and we had to stand up for ourselves. We went 1-0 down, but after half an hour, we started getting into the game. Once we got a foothold, we got a goal at a good time. It was always going to be very close and we did ride our luck at times. We have to keep believing this season — there is a long way to go. We can only win our games then rely on other things.”
Defeat prevented Everton from asserting their Champions League credentials, but they had started the game in menacing fashion and took the lead after just 63 seconds.
Victor Anichebe met stand-in rightback Phil Jagielka’s floated cross with a header that came back off the left-hand post and Pienaar charged in to spear the ball past Petr Cech, who was making his 400th Chelsea appearance.
Nikica Jelavic then hit the same portion of woodwork with a free-kick, before Lampard equalized in the 42nd minute, when he met Ramires’ cross with a precisely directed downward header.
Chelsea lost Cech to an apparent ankle injury at halftime and his replacement, Ross Turnbull, was beaten by a Jelavic header in the 69th minute, only for the crossbar to come to his rescue.
The winning goal arrived three minutes later, Lampard nudging the ball into the roof of the net after Tim Howard saved from Juan Mata to give the Blues a fourth consecutive league win.
Everton’s best chance of an equalizer fell to Jelavic in injury time, but the Croatian striker got his legs in a tangle and could not make meaningful contact with Leighton Baines’ cross.
Everton coach David Moyes confronted referee Howard Webb at the final whistle, but later revealed that he had said sorry for his behavior.
“I thought it was a free-kick on Leon Osman on the edge of the box in the 92nd minute by Lampard and he didn’t give it,” Moyes said. “But I’ve apologized to Howard Webb afterwards because I shouldn’t do that coming off the pitch.”
In the final Premier League game of the year, Liverpool comfortably overcame Queens Park Rangers 3-0 at Loftus Road to climb to ninth and leave Harry Redknapp’s side eight points from safety at the foot of the table.
All the goals arrived in the first half an hour, with Luis Suarez opening the scoring with a sinewy solo goal in the 10th minute before doubling his tally from close range six minutes later.
Daniel Agger headed in Liverpool’s third from a Steven Gerrard cross to cheer ailing manager Brendan Rodgers, who was told not to attend the game by the club’s medical staff after picking up a bug.
“Luis Suarez has been brilliant since he’s come to the club,” Gerrard said. “He’s a magician. These players only have to play against him twice a year — we have to train with him every day.”
There is a full program of Premier League games today and tomorrow, with leaders Manchester United visiting Wigan Athletic and second-placed Manchester City hosting Stoke City.
? QPR v Liverpool
Liverpool ended a difficult year in promising style by winning 3-0 at Queens Park Rangers on Sunday to leave Harry Redknapp’s hapless side eight points adrift at the foot of the Premier League.
Liverpool have never previously lost as many league matches in a calendar year — 17 — but a Luis Suarez brace and a Daniel Agger header in the first half mean they will start this year in ninth place in the top flight.
Illness meant that Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was not present to witness the game, but Redknapp may have wished that he, too, had stayed away after his 600th Premier League game ended in chastening defeat.
The QPR manager elected to replace Rob Green with Julio Cesar in goal and the former Brazil goalkeeper quickly found himself under assault at Loftus Road.
Suarez got his first sight of goal in the third minute, after nutmegging Clint Hill, but Julio Cesar was equal to his effort.
However, it was a different story seven minutes later, as Suarez flummoxed Hill with a sharp turn on the cusp of the 18-yard area before coolly rolling the ball into the bottom-left corner.
The Uruguayan made it 2-0 in the 16th minute, following in from close range after his initial cross came back to him via Nedum Onuoha to register his 13th league goal of the campaign.
It was one-way traffic, with Julio Cesar fumbling a Steven Gerrard shot and the recalled Jordan Henderson steaming in to prod the ball wide.
Liverpool’s third goal came in the 28th minute and once again the hosts’ defense was easily exposed, with Gerrard afforded far too much time to deliver a right-wing cross that Agger nodded in.
Desperate blocks from Armand Traore and Ryan Nelsen prevented Gerrard from inflicting further damage prior to halftime, before Adel Taarabt belatedly responded for QPR with a swirling left-foot shot that Pepe Reina fielded.
Julio Cesar denied Suarez a hat-trick early in the second half by pushing a fierce shot from the former Ajax striker onto the crossbar.
QPR showed greater desire to get forward following the change of ends and after Traore drilled a low cross across goal, Stephane Mbia had three attempts at goal from distance, two of which required Reina to save.
Liverpool lost Jose Enrique to an apparent hamstring injury late in the game, but Rodgers’ absence notwithstanding, it was the only troubling element of a very straightforward victory.