OPENER: Ramires set Chelsea on their way to a win
Ramires opened the scoring as Chelsea beat Wigan 4-1 at Stamford Bridge, to ease the pressure on interim boss Rafa Benitez.
David Luiz started the move with a 30 yard run, and he found a surprisingly energetic Fernando Torres who sent the ball to his right for the Brazilian to slot past the oncoming Ali Al Habsi.
In contrary to the scoreline it was a nervy game for the hosts as they failed to take their chances in the first half and were continually sloppy in possession.
Until the opener, the visitors had cleared everything that entered their box with Ali Al Habsi saving comfortably from Oscar and Torres. While Frank Lampard sent a free-kick into the stands in the 8th minute.
Given Tottenham Hotspur’s win against Newcastle United in the day’s early game, Chelsea knew they had to get three points to hold onto third place but the teams nerves appeared to increase as the crowd sat in quiet contemplation.
Managers often say that it’s harder at the bottom than the top; but it is very likely that Rafa Benitez would disagree given his increasingly strained relationship with the Blues supporters.
And the fans made their feelings clear in the 16th minute as they sang the name of their former manager, Benitez’ compatriot Roberto Di Matteo.
The first half petered out with both teams failing to convert their chances, with all the Latics good work coming through Shaun Maloney.
Both teams came out more determined for the second half, with Chelsea looking like the team that required the three points more.
Ten minutes after half-time, James MacArthur made a great run down the right but no one was there as he crossed into the box. It was something the visitors would live to regret as Eden Hazard latched onto Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross to send the ball home in a crowded 18 yard box.
But Wigan continued their trend of scoring goals in the second half as the impressive Maloney halved the deficit. After a good run down the right, Petr Cech channelled his inner Pepe Reina and rushed to the edge of the box. Maloney calmly chipped the ball over him and it crossed the line with the onrushing Gary Cahill unable to stop it.
Lampard again looked about to take his tally to 158 goals in the 66th minute, but his shot went just wide of Al Habsi’s far post.
Wigan were unlucky not to get a penalty in the 72nd after Ashley Cole used his arm to intercept Ronnie Stam’s shot, but after pleas from the visiting players referee Mike Dean waved play on.
A sending off looked likely in the 78th minute as Maynor Figueroa went straight through Ramires, but the referee only issued a yellow. From the following chants it was clear the Blues fans like Mike Dean even less than they do Benitez.
It was a case of third time lucky for Lampard as he eventually got on the score sheet to return his side to their two goal lead, 15 minutes before time. It took him to just four behind all time top scorer Bobby Tambling.
This seemed to be the bullet that dented Wigan’s armour and despite some good work from substitute Arouna Kone and the reliable MacArthur and Maloney, it was all about the home side.
Lampard’s goal finally got the Blues singing and the volume increased when Marko Marin got his first goal for the club in the first minute of injury time, to allow Benetiz to breathe a much needed sigh of relief.