Chelsea cruise, Swans snooze

Ian Walton

A comfortable win? A clean sheet? A Frank Lampard goal? A week after the wailing and gnashing of teeth at Anfield, that's just what the doctor ordered. That both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal dropped points over the weekend made the three picked up against Swansea -- no ballboys required -- even better.

That said, for much of the first half 2-0 didn't look as though it was on the cards. The match had an end-of-season feel to it. Swansea didn't have much to play for, and although Chelsea did that fact certainly wasn't apparent as they dawdled around the attacking third, holding the ball and attempting a slew of cute passes that didn't quite come off. We'll charitably call this 'being patient' rather than 'sloppy play that looked destined to send me into a coma', since I'm in a good mood after the win.

The tide turned after the introduction of Frank Lampard. Ramires had started in central midfield alongside David Luiz, but he pulled up limping early on and was forced out in the 25th minute. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The early word is that Ramires will be fine, and the move to bring on Lampard turned out to shift the match decisively in Chelsea's favour.

Suddenly the Blues began to attack at speed, with Lampard pulling the strings from midfield. Chances started coming, and eventually one of them was converted. Lampard was the real instigator -- John Terry won the ball at the halfway line, exchanged passes with David Luiz and eventually sent the ball upfield. Ben Davies, marking Oscar, thought he had a chance of intercepting the pass, but Lampard read the play, reached the ball first and flicked it to the now-free midfielder.

I distinctly remember a brief moment of annoyance that Oscar was the one in possession. Up to that point, the trio had been profoundly ineffective. Apparently, the Mazcateers were celebrating Juan Mata's 25th birthday with a veritable cavalcade of poor passes and worse touches, and Oscar had thrown himself headlong into the festivities. So I wasn't expecting much. I definitely wasn't expecting a perfect finish his across Michael Vorm and straight into the bottom corner, but lo and behold that's what we got. 43 minutes in and Chelsea were up 1-0.

We needed a second to be comfortable, but happily one was forthcoming. The Blues kept up the pressure, and after a prolonged scramble in the box the ball popped out to Mata on the right side. The birthday boy skipped into the box, and was setting up for a show when he was brought down under interference from Leon Britton. Mark Clattenburg wasted no time in pointing to the spot.

Eden Hazard had scored a penalty against Liverpool, but this time the master was on the field. Lampard stepped up, took a deep breath, and blasted the ball low and to Vorm's right, the shot finding the same corner Oscar's did just a few moments earlier. That was the last major action of the half, and from then on Chelsea were always assured of victory.


Ian Walton / Getty Images

Lampard is now one goal short of Bobby Tambling's all-time record

It was also Lampard's 201st goal with the club. The 'former Chelsea midfielder' is now just one away from tying the legendary Bobby Tambling for the club's all-time scoring record, and if he gets the playing time his performance surely warrants, number 203 should come before the end of the season. The strike also brought him level in a rather more obscure record pursuit -- Lampard has now scored against 38 Premier League teams, a figure matched only by Andy Cole. Not too shabby.

Anyway, Swansea looked dangerous from time to time after the interval, but Petr Cech's goal was never seriously threatened. Meanwhile, Vorm was rather busy, denying Demba Ba on the occasions in which the centre forward didn't fall down when receiving a pass. Which was disturbingly often -- he was moving well, but ended up off-balance whenever he needed traction. Some new footwear would probably be a good idea there.

Lampard and Mata were both seeking more goals, and it was the latter who was closest to scoring as the game inched towards the inevitable conclusion. As every Chelsea supporter knows, Mata is a magician, but that quality came back to haunt him in the 73rd minute, when he burst into the box, took a touch to steady himself, and somehow threaded a shot through the 18-inch space between Demba Ba and Vorm's right hand post, essentially (and miraculously, for Swansea) picking the one trajectory out of those available to him that would not result in a goal.

Meanwhile, Ba kept tormenting the out of sorts Ashley Williams, who had picked up a booking in the first half and should have walked for a foul on the Senegalese if not for the generousity of Clattenburg. I'd be more angry about that had we not a) won and b) been given a penalty. But no further goals were forthcoming at either end of the pitch, and the late Swansea pressure seemed more like a token gesture than anything else.

Three minutes of injury time and a few peeps of the whistle later, and Chelsea were back in control of the race for the Champions League places. It wasn't the best performance we've ever seen, and the visitors quite clearly were in summer mode, but that doesn't make the points any less valuable. Next up: A Europa League semifinal and then a visit to Old Trafford. Alrighty then.

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