Premier League: Aston Villa 1 Chelsea 2
By Football News
Frank Lampard scored twice to become Chelsea's all-time leading goalscorer in the 2-1 win at Aston Villa.
The 34-year-old midfielder broke Bobby Tambling's long-standing record haul of 202 goals with a second-half double that practically assures Rafael Benitez's side a place in next season's UEFA Champions League and leaves Villa looking nervously over their shoulders at the bottom three.
The hosts took an early lead through Christian Benteke before Lampard levelled after 61 minutes, while Ramires and Benteke were dismissed either side of half-time.
Villa looked set to hold on for a valuable draw but Lampard struck late to write his name in the history books and clinch the points.
Paul Lambert made just one change from the side that earned a 2-1 win at Norwich City, with Eric Lichaj coming in for the injured Matthew Lowton.
Benitez shuffled his pack ahead of the UEFA Europa League final, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Eden Hazard replacing Branislav Ivanovic, David Luiz and Oscar respectively.
The visitors started well without creating any real chances and they paid for their lack of inventiveness as Lambert's side seized the advantage.
Benteke shrugged off the attentions of Cahill before slotting home his 23rd goal of the campaign at the near post after latching onto a through ball from Yacouba Sylla.
Chelsea continued to grow into the contest and went agonisingly close to levelling matters after 29 minutes, Lampard forcing Brad Guzan to tip his low free-kick onto the post.
Benitez's side's luck only worsened in first-half injury-time as Ramires was dismissed for a second bookable offence following a high challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Ramires' sending-off forced Benitez to make changes during the interval, with the Spaniard selecting Luiz to fill the void in midfield in place of Victor Moses.
Villa looked to press home their man advantage in the second half but did not significantly threaten Petr Cech, Joe Bennett's audacious left-footed drive the closest they came to doubling their lead.
However, their numerical superiority did not last for much longer as after 58 minutes Benteke was given his marching orders for a second yellow card after he caught Terry with a high boot.
It took just three minutes for Chelsea to capitalise on Benteke's ill-discipline, Lampard finding the equaliser with a spectacular left-footed curler which flew past Guzan and into the top corner.
That goal drew Lampard level with Tambling's tally, but it was Lambert's men responded well to that setback and refused to abandon their attacking style, Fabian Delph firing high and wide at the end of another slick move from the hosts.
Villa were the beneficiaries of some good fortune after 72 minutes as Sylla cleared a Cahill effort off the line from a Juan Mata corner before Ashley Westwood replicated the feat to deny Demba Ba after he had latched on to the rebound.
Chelsea will have counted themselves unfortunate, however, with Nathan Baker appearing to handle Cahill's initial shot.
The hosts' luck ran out with two minutes of normal time remaining as Lampard popped up to tap home his record-breaking goal from close range after a neat one-two from Hazard and Ashley Cole.