LONDON, (Reuters) – Frank Lampard underlined his value to Chelsea with a well-taken double to secure a 2-1 comeback win at Everton yesterday and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez heaped more misery on Premier League strugglers Queens Park Rangers.
The subject of intense speculation about his future at Stamford Bridge, midfielder Lampard reminded Chelsea’s power-brokers of his class by scoring either side of halftime to cancel out Steven Pienaar’s powerful strike after 63 seconds.
Chelsea’s fourth successive league win under interim manager Rafael Benitez lifted the Londoners back up to third in the Premier League, four points behind second-placed Manchester City with a game in hand.
Manchester United are seven points clear at the top and QPR’s 3-0 home loss to Liverpool left them three points adrift at the bottom.
Lampard has made more than 500 appearances for Chelsea in 11 years but has been linked with a move away from the club when his contract expires at the end of the season.
“We haven’t been talking (about a new contract) in the last couple of weeks and I’m just concentrating on playing,” Lampard told Sky Sports.
“Playing games gives me enough satisfaction, then what will be will be.”
Benitez praised his side for the way they responded to conceding early on but he would not be drawn on Lampard’s future.
“My job is to keep Lampard fit,” he said. “He is under contract, fully committed and working hard and that is it. My job is to coach the players, and keep winning games and keep my opinion.”
Lampard’s performance at Goodison Park was an example of just how influential he can be.
He rose in the box to meet a well-directed, left-footed cross from Ramires, planting the ball in the corner of Tim Howard’s net to draw Chelsea level, before slamming home the winner after a goalmouth scramble with 18 minutes left.
Lampard has made popping up in the right place at the right time an art form in his time at Chelsea.
The goals against Everton were his 191st and 192nd for Chelsea, which took him to within one of Kerry Dixon, second on the club’s all-time goalscoring list with 193.
Bobby Tambling, with 202, remains out in front.
While Lampard was the hero for Chelsea, Everton will lament their inability to finish off a number of opportunities.
Pienaar’s goal gave the hosts a flying start and for the first 20 minutes, the Toffees bossed Chelsea and should have doubled their advantage.
A stirring Nikica Jelavic free kick struck the woodwork and Chelsea keeper Petr Cech kept out an effort by Leon Osman.
But the European champions warmed to the task and Lampard showed off all his class.
“It was very hard,” he said.
“This is always one of the most difficult games of the season. We got a tanking here last year and we had to stand up for ourselves… 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.”
Liverpool are not involved in the title race but they showed in 30 minutes at Loftus Road how good they can be despite their mid-table position.
They raced into a 3-0 lead primarily thanks to the brilliance of striker Suarez, who weaved through some feeble defence for his opening goal before adding a second after 16 minutes.
Defender Daniel Agger’s powerful header from a Steven Gerrard cross effectively ended the contest before halftime, leading to some sections of the crowd booing the QPR players as they left the pitch.
“We played probably our best football of the season in the first half,” Gerrard told Sky Sports.
“QPR are having a tough time at the moment, and we knew if we started well we could quieten the crowd then play our football.”
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers was unable to take his place on the sidelines due to illness and his opposite Harry Redknapp was unable to inspire a dramatic comeback like the one QPR produced in the corresponding fixture last season when late goals carried them to victory.
Liverpool’s level dropped off as the game wore on and they were unable to add to their dominance but the hosts offered little in attack and the result was never in doubt as Liverpool climbed to ninth in the table.
“It was difficult, they’ve got real quality….Suarez, Gerrard,” Redknapp said.
“Second half we changed how we played and we did better but it’s difficult….you can only get what you can with what you’ve got but I still think we’ll get out of trouble.”