Lampard, Hazard score as Chelsea beat Wigan Athletic
London: Chelsea laboured to an ultimately convincing win over relegation-threatened Wigan at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, being eased over the line by a trademark Frank Lampard strike to claim the three points and move back ahead of Tottenham into third place.
A livelier Fernando Torres, who replaced Demba Ba in the starting XI, showed good awareness to play Ramires in on goal for Chelsea`s opener, before Eden Hazard displayed a cool head to drill the Blues into a two-goal lead following enterprising build-up by Cesar Azpilicueta.
A poorly timed offside trap - Gary Cahill the culprit - allowed Shaun Maloney to scamper through and finish beyond Petr Cech but Rafa Benitez`s team rallied and finished the job courtesy of Lampard and a late Marko Marin header.
Roberto Martinez would have been pleased with the start his side made in front of a cagey home crowd as Maloney tested Petr Cech with a curling left-footed effort from the right side of the box.
In the 15th minute Torres nodded a Frank Lampard free kick inches wide of the far post as Ali Al-Habsi slipped on his goalline. Chelsea were purring. Torres again caused the Wigan defence problems and did well to twist inside Gary Caldwell on the edge of the box but Al-Habsi caught his shot easily.
Then came the goal. David Luiz`s pass from midfield in the 23rd minute was turned around the corner by Torres into the path of the overlapping Ramires. The Brazilian steadied himself as he entered Al-Habsi`s box and coolly stroked the ball high into the net to give the hosts the lead. It was all too easy for the Blues.
Cech was a bystander for the remainder of the half and you feared Chelsea might overpower the Latics were they operating in top gear. Torres` powerful near post header 13 minutes before the break from a precise Azpilicueta cross drew the best out of Al-Habsi as the Oman international expertly tipped over.
Wigan emerged for the second period sticking to their principles of controlled possession and for a moment it looked as if they might trouble a relaxed Chelsea. But they found chances difficult to come by and on the 56th minute a routine ball over the top found Jean Beausejour out of position and chasing Azpilicueta.
The right-back plundered into the Wigan box and squared neatly for Hazard, who controlled his right-foot effort well as he fired through a crowd and under Al-Habsi.
But Wigan were not done. Two minutes later, they had a goal as James McArthur`s cute ball over the top of the defence exposed a frail offside trap. Cech looked to pounce on the loose ball but Maloney was faster and bent his shot into the unguarded goal from a wide angle.
Arouna Kone was introduced as Martinez pushed for an equaliser and for a time it seemed like it was imminent. Kone tested Cech and McArthur should have done better with a deflection that fell to him in the box.
And so it was left for Lampard to steal the headlines. A scampering Hazard run down the left drew the defence towards the Belgian and his cutback was intelligently dummied by substitute Juan Mata, leaving Lampard the space to firmly smash a trademark right foot shot beyond Al-Habsi.
In the dying moments, the late substitute Marin pounced to plant a diving header into an empty net after Al-Habsi could only parry a booming Azpilicueta wide. Torres almost repeated the feat moments later but Al-Habsi denied the Spaniard with a double save from Ramires and then the striker.