Frank Lampard became Chelsea’s all-time top scorer as his brace as good as seals Champions League qualification for next season.
The veteran midfielder equalised, after Christian Benteke had opened the scoring, with a thumping left-foot drive, and his winner, one minute from time, was his trademark late run into the box and a simple tap-in that brought, finally, goal number 203.
It means Lampard is now outright top scorer, overtaking Bobby Tambling. And because of his double, Chelsea are all-but guaranteed a top-four league finish due to the goal different superiority over Tottenham (+35 to +18).
The Blues would not have wanted it to be dragged out to the last match of the season, which will be David Moyes’ goodbye match at Everton, and now full concentrations can go to the Europa League match mid-week.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their past six Premier League matches, but against a relegation-threatened Aston Villa side, it was always going to be a tough call.
The reverse fixture earlier this season saw Chelsea set a new Premier League record for the most number of different scorers (7) in a match, but the goals would not be flowing in this time. Even though the West Midlands side have not kept a clean sheet in their last 20 league matches, the attacking prowess of Benteke and Agbonlahor would always test a shaky Chelsea, who let a lead slip against Tottenham mid-week. The Blues have, in actual fact, only won 23% of the last 70 games played away to Aston Villa, and with Villa looking to win 3 league matches in a row for the first time in three years, the match would go right down to the wire.
And it was The Claret And Blue side that started the better of the two, rewarded with a goal inside the first quarter of an hour. Benteke was allowed tons of room to run down the left-side after a misplaced Cahill pass, and his shot crept inside the near post of Cech to give the hosts a shock opener. Benteke is now the third-highest scorer this calendar year in Europe’s top five leagues, behind only Messi and Ronaldo.
The European Champions have scored 141 goals in 66 matches this season — the club record is 142 goals set in 2009-10 — but the record-equalling goal proved elusive.
Guzan was stopping Ba, Mata and a Lampard free-kick, and matters were made worse when Ramires needlessly picked up two yellow cards in the space of 28 minutes. The Brazilian was eventually shown his marching orders for a high foot, as the uphill battle was getting away from Chelsea.
Luiz replaced the ineffective Moses as Benitez looked to make up for the lost holding midfielder, and this gave Lampard licence to roam, whilst Luiz was composed in the defensive role.
Villa had more chances than Chelsea to score the game’s next goal, but the turning point once again was to be another second yellow card, this time for Benteke, who was again sent off for a high boot. Lee Mason showed the respected consistency.
10 versus 10 allowed Chelsea to not be so defensive and that brought the game’s first goal. Lampard scored Chelsea’s 142nd goal of the season, as well as his 202nd, in a double record-breaking move. Hazard played the ball to Lampard, and the midfielder, with his back to goal, showed a striker’s instinct by swinging around and unleashing an unstoppable left-foot strike, to record his 14th league goal of the season on his 550th Premier League appearance.
Team accomplishments always outweigh personal achievements, as showed with Lampard’s subdued celebration, as Chelsea had the best part of half an hour to score a winner.
Ba looked to have that when Cahill’s strike was stopped by Villa on the line, and Ba looked to get the vital touch that took the whole of the ball over the whole of the line, but with the incident over in a matter of milliseconds, neither Lee Mason nor the linesman could be certain it was a goal.
John Terry suffered an ankle injury on his 550th start for Chelsea in all competitions today, and whilst it would have been nice for him to be on the pitch to celebrate Lampard’s record-breaking goal, it was a phenomenal moment to see Lampard get it wearing the captain’s armband.
Hazard’s one-two with Cole penetrated the back-line and the Belgian then squared to the onrushing Lampard, to tap home his 203rd goal for Chelsea, his 165th in the Premier League, and the 999th in the Premier League this season. It means Lampard has now scored more goals versus Aston Villa than any other side in his Premier League career (13).
Aston Villa surged in the seven minutes of added time but there was no erasing Lampard’s contribution to a fine game, capped off in remarkable style. His brace means Champions League football next season. Whether he gets to savour in his and his team’s achievement next season remains to be seen.