Lampard closes on record as Chelsea get back on track
LONDON (Reuters) - Evergreen Frank Lampard notched his 198th Chelsea goal and Marko Marin grabbed his first for the club as the European champions returned to winning ways with a 4-1 rout of Wigan Athletic in the Premier League on Saturday.
It was the 34-year-old England international's fourth strike in as many league games and he is inching closer to Bobby Tambling's all-time Chelsea record of 202 goals.
The Londoners had gone four games in all competitions without a win but interim manager Rafa Benitez believes results will improve now his squad is getting back to full strength.
"It's important to have more bodies because you can change players for others with fresh legs. With the quality we have it will make things easier," Benitez told reporters after his side stayed third, 13 points adrift of leaders Manchester United.
Chelsea have had a gruelling series of fixtures, playing three games a week since the end of October, and have been hindered by injuries, suspensions and the absence of Nigerians John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses on African Nations Cup duty.
"Oscar had a bit of cramp today and Gary Cahill did as well because they are playing so many games and they were also away on international break in midweek," added Benitez, referring to two players he was forced to take off in the second half.
"We were able to move David Luiz from midfield to centre back and we didn't have that option before. Juan Mata was on the bench and we were able to bring him on for Oscar so that was really good too.
"I was also able to bring on Yossi Benayoun and Marin so it's much better now that we are able to manage the game in a different way. In the past it was more difficult to change the game," said Benitez.
Chelsea took the lead in the first half after the excellent Fernando Torres set up Ramires and the Brazilian burst clear of the Wigan defence to clip the ball into the roof of the net.
Torres held the ball up well throughout and was unlucky not to score, heading a Lampard free kick inches wide and forcing two spectacular saves from Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi.
Eden Hazard, returning after a three-match ban for his altercation with a ballboy in the League Cup semi-final at Swansea City, made it 2-0 with a low drive in the 56th minute following a cross by raiding right back Cesar Azpilicueta.
Slick-passing Wigan were always in the game, though, and they gave Chelsea a scare when midfield playmaker Shaun Maloney charged on to a through ball, rounded goalkeeper Petr Cech and slotted into an empty net from an acute angle.
Benitez's side have squandered several leads in recent matches and the Stamford Bridge faithful started to get jittery before Lampard fired a low shot home with three minutes to go.
Germany forward Marin has had a torrid six months since joining from Werder Bremen and the substitute was mobbed by his team mates after rounding off the scoring in stoppage time with a full-length diving header after more good work by Azpilicueta.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)
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