Dynamic Lampard storms fortress Goodison
Everton 1 Chelsea 2
Frank Lampard continues to fight magnificently against the fading of his Chelsea light, continues to make a mockery of the board's refusal to offer him a new deal.
With dynamism on the field, and dignity off it, Lampard is going out in style. But for him, the European champions would have lost this game to a well-organised, fired-up Everton side.
Chelsea's captain rescued his team in this game, dragging them to victory from a goal down, so maintaining the momentum under Rafael Benitez.
He scored twice, so moving within a goal of Kerry Dixon's 193 in the club's all-time scoring list with only Bobby Tambling ahead on 202. If he stays until the summer, Lampard could well be leaving the Bridge as the club's most prolific goalscorer. Lampard is making Chelsea history as Chelsea prepare to make him history.
After each of the midfielder's goals, and particularly at the final whistle, Chelsea fans chanted "sign him up", an edge of frustration detectable in their voices. Lampard walked over at the end, acknowledging their backing, almost seeming to linger in the glow of their love. They will always have Munich, always have the memories of great moments, but all are aware that the board will not commit to players in their mid-30s.
The issue of age stirs a strange debate in football as if a body's susceptibility to sport's demands can be measured only by the number of years. It is not a simple science, not something that can be quantified in 'Moneyball' terms. It is about dedication to a professional lifestyle, about avoiding injury.
Roman Abramovich, Bruce Buck, Ron Gourlay and Michael Emenalo are preparing to take a gamble on the knees of the 27-year-old Demba Ba while dispensing with the substantial services of the man who lasted two hours of the Champions League final in May, who kept Chelsea calm in the teeth of an Everton storm here.
Two of the most impressive contributors to an absorbing game at Goodison were Lampard (34) and the 35-year-old Sylvain Distin. The Everton centre-half blotted out Fernando Torres with a mix of strength, determination and anticipation. Distin was desperately unfortunate to finish the day contemplating the end of Everton's unbeaten home record in the league this season.
An hour after the final whistle, Distin could be found outside Goodison, perching a fan on a barrier so the boy's father could take a better picture. Distin then walked along a row of supporters, shaking hands and chatting away. Like Lampard, Distin is a fine ambassador for his club.
Another of the thirtysomething brigade, Steven Pienaar, was also hugely influential. As the strains of 'Z Cars' faded away and Goodison shook with expectancy, Everton tore into Chelsea, seizing the lead through the 30-year-old Pienaar after 63 seconds. Chelsea were culpable, particularly Eden Hazard. The Belgian gave the ball away, the mistake proving doubly damaging as Ashley Cole, who had made a forward dart, was caught out of position.
Phil Jagielka sprinted down the right, running into space vacated by Cole, before lifting over a cross. Victor Anichebe climbed above, probably on, Cesar Azpilicueta, powering a header against the post. As the ball rebounded clear, Pienaar was sharpest, drilling it past Petr Cech.
Chelsea were rattled. Moyes' clever deployment of Pienaar in a central role troubled the visitors. Benitez had seemed to expect the South African to be working the left, dovetailing with Leighton Baines, and had therefore fielded the energetic Ramires there. Yet Moyes started Anichebe on the left, almost in a 4-3-3 formation with Steven Naismith to the right of Nikica Jelavic. Pienaar was more central, looking to link with Jelavic while also quick to press David Luiz and Lampard when Chelsea's midfielders had possession.
For 25 minutes Everton were totally dominant, proving quicker to the ball and hungrier, simply working harder than the champions of Europe.
When Gary Cahill fouled Pienaar, Jelavic swept a free-kick on to Cech's right-hand upright. When Jagielka delivered another cross, Leon Osman forced Cech into an exceptional save.
Yet there is such class in these Chelsea ranks. Ramires went striding through the middle, eventually allowing Juan Mata to test Tim Howard.
Chelsea were building, looking for hope from Ramires, Mata and Lampard, but they kept running into the powerful frame of Distin for 40 minutes.
Such was the quality beginning to flicker from the feet of the visitors that Everton really needed to take their chances. Jelavic nearly scored after 35 minutes, having been brilliantly released by Pienaar, but Cech saved superbly. Big moment. Six minutes later, Chelsea equalised, following Torres' one moment of class in the first half (barring two clearing headers).
Turning Baines, Torres rolled the ball down the inside-right channel for Ramires. The Brazilian crossed for Lampard to do what he does so well, timing his run to score, this time with a strong header past Howard.
Chelsea lost an important thirtysomething, Cech, to a muscle injury at the break, bringing Ross Turnbull into goal. The Englishman saved well from Osman after 67 minutes and was then relieved to see Jelavic's header hit the bar following a gem of a cross from Baines, who certainly shaded the battle of the No 3s with Cole.
Another big moment. Moments later, Chelsea were ahead. Again, they were indebted to Lampard. Torres had wasted one chance, and then been denied by Howard, so again it was left to Lampard to find the net.
When Howard saved from Mata, Lampard was in the right place at the right time to pounce.
It was no accident; Lampard has been doing it for years. Sadly, those Chelsea years are soon to end and nobody at the Bridge outside the boardroom can really understand why. (© Daily Telegraph, London)