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Brighton & Hove Albion
West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
February 9, 2013
• 10:00 AM
• Stamford Bridge, London
Referee: M. Dean
• Attendance: 41562
E. Hazard 56'
F. Lampard 87'
M. Marin 90'+
S. Maloney 58'
It's back up to third for Chelsea, while the visitors stay in the relegation zone. Worrying times for Martinez's men, but Benitez will feel as though he may just have extended his Stamford Bridge stay with an important win today. That's all from me, Tim Poole, today folks - I hope you've enjoyed our coverage. Until next time!
Marin rounded off what proved to be a memorable day for Benitez's men with a late goal, while Ramires will be remembered for starting the rout and Torres too for an encouraging display from the Spaniard.
4-1. Emphatic in the end for the hosts, but the three points looked uncertain throughout the 90. In the end, it was the Blues' key men who came through. Mata's introduction added visible rhythm and fluency, Lampard scored the crucial third and Hazard - who scored Chelsea's second - was superb.
FULL-TIME! A roller-coaster affair comes to an end here - and Chelsea almost extend their lead even in the dying embers of the game as Al-Habsi produces another quality save to cruelly deny Torres his chance to get on the scoresheet.
90' + 4'
Yellow Card Marko Marin
90' + 2'
Goal Marko Marin
GOAL! Marin scores with his first touch. Super-sub!
90' + 2'
Well, the scoreline is perhaps harsh on Wigan today, but the hosts have run away with it in this second half and simply outlasted their bottom-half opponents.
90' + 1'
Marko Marin comes on for Eden Hazard, who has been impressive today, making his presence felt throughout. How the Blues missed him before today.
While questions will still be in the air about Rafa Benitez's future, there should be absolutely no doubt about Frank Lampard's. If Chelsea do not renew the England midfielder's contract, I'll be lost for words.
Assist Eden Hazard
Chelsea have surely sealed victory now - Lampard's 11th Premier League goal this season and ninth in 14 games. Mata dummied the ball superbly and Lampard took it upon himself to launch a plumb of a shot from just outside the penalty area. Classic strike.
Goal Frank Lampard
GOAL! A sensational strike from Lampard - no surprises there, then.
Di Santo earns his side a throw - although he would have hoped for more. The Argentine striker has been a constant thorn in his former team's side but is yet to get his name on the scoresheet.
A change is imminent for both sides but the fact that Yossi Benayoun is coming on for Chelsea is the most noteworthy fact of this exchange. The Israel international will look to make an impact after being out of the first-team picture at Stamford Bridge for an awfully long time.
Kone fires a shot straight at Cech! The goalkeeper wasn't worried in the end but the home fans will be worrying that it's the away side creating late pressure, not them.
Yellow Card Maynor Figueroa
Figueroa makes a rash challenge on Ramires and receives a booking - and a Chelsea free kick in a dangerous position - as his punishment.
Juan Mata finally enters the fray! Will the Spaniard inspire the Blues to another goal or just help them retain enough possession to see out the win? Either way, he replaces Oscar.
A lot of pressure from the away side now and that late equaliser I alluded to early looks as though it could still be coming.
Di Santo has a thunderous shot blocked and Wigan get their fifth... and then sixth corner.
The away side now win their fourth corner of the game and are looking as though there are still signs of life in them.
The aftermath sees a penalty appeal turned down for the visitors but a free-kick then given inside the Chelsea half.
Di Santo is released down the left flank but Cahill dispossesses him before losing the ball in a similar manner to how he did against Brazil midweek.
Chelsea have been winning 2-1 late on quite a lot recently.. They dropped points against both Southampton and Reading from this position and memorably lost 3-2 to Newcastle last weekend thanks to a late Moussa Sissoko winner after leading 2-1 as well.
It's the home side with all the play once again, now. They are dominating possession and creating chances in abundance. That Maloney goal is starting to look like the exception rather than the rule - but it may still cost the hosts and how Cech will rue rushing off his line if it does.
Azpilicueta comes under pressure from substitute Kone in his own half but remains calm, playing a long pass back to Cech, who sees away the danger.
Ohhhhh, so close from Lampard! A great turn from the England man and he fires Chelsea's 20th shot of the game across goal but just wide of the far post.
Demba Ba is warming up for the hosts. Benitez is often shy with his substitutions but if he ever does make changes - they seem to happen between the 70 and 80 minute mark, so watch this space.
Yellow Card Paul Scharner
Will there even be a next goal? We'll have to wait and see... There has been a booking for Scharner, though.
Understandably, play has slowed down somewhat, though both sides are still pushing eagerly for goals. Arguably, they both need the next goal as much as each other.
Well, what a passage of play that was! Just as the home fans would have felt confident they were wrapping the game up, Maloney popped up to put the visitors right back into the equation.
Assist James McArthur
Goal Shaun Maloney
GOAL FOR WIGAN! The game has really opened up here and the visitors are straight back into the game after a ball over the top finds Maloney, who finishes from a tight angle after Cech rushes off his line. Sergio Aguero mark two.
Assist César Azpilicueta
Goal Eden Hazard
GOAL! Hazard tucks the ball away for Chelsea. Just a few moments after Di Santo's dangerous cross, a long ball up the park from Cahill finds Azpilicueta, who turns and crosses it into the Belgian, who has acres of space to convert a calm finish.
Di Santo smashes a low ball across the box and almost finds a Wigan shirt; danger for Chelsea and they can count themselves lucky that slack defending was not punished by the visitors there.
Cech is forced into a save from a header and it's now the away side who are fighting for the ball on every turn and keeping it well when they regain it.
Today's performance so far cannot really be expected to have a significant impact on Benitez's Chelsea future. His side have been average - but they are winning, nonetheless.
How Roberto Martinez would love a late Latics equaliser here. The way things are going - with the home side content with keeping the ball in a defensive capacity - the visitors could well have the chance to sneak a goal back late on.
Lampard finds Ramires and the Brazilian is almost clean through on goal for a second time, but on this occasion a Wigan defender is there to stop him.
Slow start to this second 45 and possession has been evenly shared.
We are off in this second half. Ramires' typically Brazilian first-half finish remains the difference between the sides but the visitors have 45 minutes ahead of them to try and grab some vital points in their battle against relegation.
Stamford Bridge is almost ready for the second half...
There is, of course, only one way to find out what will happen... And only one place! Grab yourselves a half-time cuppa then stay with us here at Goal.com for the second half, which will resume in ten minutes or so.
Similarly, the Blues have had six shots on target and will be encouraged by the effectiveness of their attacking play. No one will know the danger of letting a lead sleep better, however, and they will be keen to avoid a repeat of recent history by adding to their goal tally.
Wigan and Roberto Martinez will feel as though they can still get something out of this game, and they will be grateful to keeper Ali Al-Habsi for limiting Chelsea to just the one goal.
45' + 1'
HALF-TIME! Both sides head into the break after one minute of added time, each having reasons to feel positive.
Al-Habsi deals with the corner but a few pinged passes eventually guide the ball to Oscar, who curls his shot over the bar.
The ball has traveled straight up the other end here and now the home side have a corner after great attacking work from right-back Azpilicueta.
Another corner for the away side here. The initial out-swinger came to nothing but the Blues failed to clear their lines and Ramires was forced into thumping the ball out for a second Wigan corner.
And they have earned themselves a corner for their efforts! Maloney whips is a very tasty cross, which forces Azpilicueta into a headed clearance.
The visitors have seen more of the ball in the last few minutes than the whole of the previous twenty. Even more worrying for the home fans is that they are slowly edging closer and closer to the Chelsea danger area.
Surprisingly, here, the home side have somewhat eased off on the stroke of half-time. If they somehow go into the break on level terms they will only have themselves to blame.
The hosts actually have five players starting today who were involved in the England-Brazil match on Wednesday. Two Brazilians - Ramires and Luiz - are joined by three Englishmen - Lampard, Cole and Cahill.
It has to be said - it's hard to see a way back for the visitors here. The hosts curl in another corner, which then leads to... yet another corner. Perhaps the away side will have more joy in the second half.
Lampard rolls a harmless shot wide but his incessant eye for goal is still applauded by the home fans.
Al-Habsi makes another save from the follow-up corner as Luiz fires a header in on this occasion. Not quite the theatrics of the last one but a save that needed to be made, nonetheless.
SAVE!! Al-Habsi produces a world-class fingertip save to deny a Torres header. The Spaniard is on fire but has so far been unable to better the Oman international.
Meanwhile, time is running out for Hulk Hogan's prediction of 40-1 but Goal.com's very own 3-1 prediction is looking as though it could come good!
It's all Chelsea now but something tells me Benitez won't feel at all calm as his side have thrown away bigger leads than this so far this term.
Ivanovic now comes close! The bombardment continues, with Lampard and Oscar delivering crosses into the box from left, right and centre - quite literally.
And the hosts almost double their lead as Torres finds himself just yards away from a corner but a last-ditch clearance stops the Spaniard from turning goalscorer.
The goal has pretty much taken the sting out of the visitors and you really get the sense that they anticipate an uphill task from here.
Assist Fernando Torres
Well, the goal came pretty much out of nothing - and for all of Wigan's counterattacking threat, it was the home side who showed their potential on the break with a rapid end-to-end move. Torres' pass was simply brilliant and Ramires used his space exceptionally well, curling a controlled shot towards the far top corner and giving Al Habsi absolutely no chance.
GOAL!!! Ramires scores with a fantastic finish!! Torres provides the assist.
The home side's playmakers attempt to speed things up but it is Ashley Cole of all people who ends up losing the ball in the opposition half.
We are witnessing a visibly slower passage of play once again, now, and that will suit the away side perfectly.
The visitors do look sharp on the counter, however, and the Blues will have to be wary of being hit on the break when their creative midfielders are sat deep in the Wigan half.
The home side are pushing further and further forward now and, although on this occasion they are restricted to a shot from distance, Oscar forces a save from the Latics' keeper.
And Torres comes close yet again here! If the Spaniard has ever wanted a chance to get a run of form going, this is it. The number nine received the ball on the edge of the area and turned magnificently to create space. His finish was blunt, however, and went straight into Al Habsi's hands.
CHANCE! Torres flashes a header wide as Lampard delivers a fantastic free-kick from an advanced position. Ali Al-Habsi was rooted to the ground but, fortunately for the shot stopper, Torres headed just wide.
The hosts now making several attempts at building slowly from the middle of the park and working the ball into the box. A great switch from Luiz guides the ball to Oscar but the Brazilian eventually loses possession and it's back to square one.
Torres surges down the left hand-side but is expertly stopped by Scharner - who then draws a foul out of the Spaniard. How the Wigan faithful will be delighted to have the Austrian back at their club.
The game slows down for a brief moment as a slow passage of play down the left hand-side results in a couple of throw-ins for the visitors. Certainly not the most exciting couple of minutes so far!
It looks as though we're going to continue at a rate of a shot per minute here as Hazard receives the ball in the area from a great pass but fires his shot wide. A bit of a reflex hit from the Belgian - he would surely have done better with a little more time.
Lampard has his first shot of the day - but it's not one of his more memorable ones. A nice turn from the England man but his shot from 25 yards was nowhere near as precise as the one he tucked away against Brazil in midweek.
And Cech is forced into another save! Shaun Maloney this time turning on the edge of the area and curling a wonderful shot towards the far post. Cech dives at full stretch makes it look easy in the end.
CHANCE! Franco Di Santo finds space in the penalty box against his former club and gets a near post shot away - Cech is equal to it but it was certainly not an easy save to make for the Czech international.
Benitez has been famous for his rotation policy over the years, but the Blues have struggled without Mata's talismanic presence - their home defeat to QPR in January being a case in point. Ba will also be missed (unless he comes on) but the decision there has also been influenced by the broken nose he is still recovering from.
An interesting line-up for the home side today. Ivanovic, Luiz and Cahill all on the pitch means one thing: Brazilian Luiz moves into midfield. That allows Lampard (or Ramires) to venture forward, while Mata has been sacrificed to the bench as a result.
The first corner of the game goes to the hosts as Ramires makes a strong run down the middle and forces a block out of the Wigan backline.
And we're off! The away side get us underway and have the ball forward within 25 seconds, Beausejour sending a cross in that is calmly collected by Cech - who has overcome a calf injury to make today's game.
That's all you'll need to know before the game, folks - oh and the fact that Rafa Benitez has only amassed 22 points from 13 games as Chelsea manager: two less than Roberto Di Matteo did before he was sacked. Nevertheless, Hulk Hogan hasn't shied away from predicting an 'NFL score', tipping Chelsea to win 40-1 (really) on Football Focus. Our preview man Tom J Doyle sees less goals but is predicting a 3-1 win for the hosts nonetheless. Stay with us to find out what transpires!
And the visitors' line-up looks like this: Al Habsi; Stam, Caldwell, Espinoza, Figueroa, McArthur, McCarthy Scharner; Beausejour, Maloney, Di Santo. Subs: Robles, Kone, Jones, Henriquez, Gomez, McManaman, Golobart.
So without further ado, here Chelsea's team for you today: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Luiz, Lampard; Ramires, Oscar, Hazard; Torres. Subs: Turnbull, Ferriera, Bertrand, Benayoun, Marin, Mata, Ba.
But Wigan are hardly lighting the Premier League on fire themselves, having won just once in their last 12 league matches. There's also the little statistic of Chelsea having beaten the Latics six times in their last seven meetings at Stamford Bridge.
Benitez's Blues go into today's encounter in dismal form, having won just two of their last five league games and being without a win in four in all competitions. They do welcome back Eden Hazard from his recent suspension for *that* kick on the Swansea ballboy, however, but start with Ferndando Torres today instead of Demba Ba - perhaps more of a hindrance than a boost for Chelsea fans.
Hello and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE! play-by-play commentary of Chelsea's Premier League clash against Wigan from Stamford Bridge. I'm Tim Poole and I'll be guiding you through the action, so strap in and get ready for an afternoon of 'will Rafael Benitez still be Chelsea manager tomorrow?'
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