Chelsea 2-0 Swansea City
Chelsea sauntered past Swansea and further cemented their Champions League spot, thanks to two quick-fire goals right before half-time.
Oscar scored in the 43rd minute, and if, as cliché goes, conceding right before half-time is hugely psychologically damaging, another in first-half stoppage time — a penalty from Lampard — won’t have helped matters.
It means the Blues now head the London trio fighting for only two Champions League places.
Swansea, meanwhile, have stepped into mid-table mediocrity and having secured a European spot via a Capital One Cup win, have stepped off their gas in their pursuit for absolutely nothing. The Welsh side had drawn two and lost two of their last four league matches.
Benitez, meanwhile, was going into his 42nd game as interim manager of Chelsea, a startling figure for someone who is only meant to be a stand-in, and more than Di Matteo and André Villas-Boas.
Of all the 41 matches played thus far, the average score-line has been a 2-1 victory, and with Swansea yet to win from a losing position this season, the onus really was on Chelsea to make the break-through.
That would have to come through Demba Ba and his trio of the amicably-named Mazacar. Hazard and Oscar started alongside birthday boy Juan Mata. John Terry, meanwhile, had a defensive pairing with Gary Cahill, who was playing his first match since the start of the month.
Eden Hazard and Demba Ba looked intent on scoring early, but as so often in a tricky schedule, Chelsea started off lacklustre in the face of a game every three days.
Thankfully for Chelsea, Swansea were failing to capitalise on fatigued legs after a trip to Switzerland mid-week, and despite attempts from Michu and Hernandez, Cech was standing firm. The goalkeeper needed just one more clean-sheet going into this game to take third place in the list of Premier League clean sheets, and the Czech stopper was intent on doing so.
Mark Clattenburg’s return to Stamford Bridge after being cleared of racial abuse was mercifully smooth. Mikel was benched to spare a handshake, whilst his defensive partner Ramires soon had to come off too. Frank Lampard was the man called on.
And a man with intent to break the record set by Bobby Tambling, who was watching on and made an emotional half-time lap of honour.
But right before half-time was when the game was really won.
The old guard of John Terry and Frank Lampard combined and fed through the younger generation of Oscar, who firely firmly past Michel Vorm.
Juan Mata, wanting to celebrate his 25th with a win, then was felled in the box by Leon Britton and Frank Lampard was on hand to smash home his 201st. Then came the appearance of Tambling.
No time to reminisce, though, for Chelsea, who needed to truly kill off the game. The previous Premier League match against Swansea ended 4-1, and Lampard looked hungry for a second. Ba too went close.
The match opened up but for all Swansea’s finesse and passing, they lacked the final punch. Chelsea, similarly, were not clinical and on another day, could have recorded a scoreline similar to the 4-1.
202 was not to come for Lampard on his 400th Premier League appearance. The penalty — his 163rd Premier League goal — equalled Andy Cole’s league record, and meant the veteran midfielder has now scored against 38 different Premier League teams.
Both sides have scored eight times in the final 10 minutes this season, but the points were in the bag already.