LONDON (AP) – Frank Lampard provided yet another reminder to Chelsea of his value to the team as the veteran midfielder helped to clinch a 4-1 victory over Wigan in the Premier League on Saturday.
Lampard, who scored England's match-winner against Brazil on Wednesday, got his 12th goal of the season for Chelsea during an influential display that provided further justification for owner Roman Abramovich to give him a new contract beyond this season.
The Blues responded to Tottenham's victory over Newcastle earlier Saturday by securing the victory that keeps them a point ahead of their London rival.
Ramires completed a flowing move in the first half to put Chelsea in front, and Eden Hazard marked his return from suspension after kicking a ball boy by extending the lead after the break.
Shaun Maloney gave relegation-threatened Wigan brief hope of a comeback by quickly pulling one back, but Lampard's goal came in the 86th minute and substitute Marko Marin scored his first Chelsea goal in stoppage time.
Lampard's goal put the 34-year-old midfielder just four behind Bobby Tambling's club record of 202.
Before the late goals, the atmosphere was flat inside a chilly Stamford Bridge. Benitez has been the target of abusive fan chants since his unpopular appointment in November and, three years to the day after Luiz Felipe Scolari was fired by Chelsea, Benitez's grip on the job has seemed perpetually precarious.
Just three wins in their last 10 games before Saturday had seen Chelsea exit the League Cup, forced to play an FA Cup replay next weekend against third-tier opposition, and any league title hopes fade fast.
This win, though, rarely looked in doubt after the early Wigan threat that saw goalkeeper Petr Cech block Franco Di Santo's angled shot with his left leg and keep out Maloney's curled shot with a diving save.
Chelsea managed to find the space to assert itself, with Hazard dragging a shot wide before Torres headed off target and sent a weak shot straight at goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi.
Chelsea's breakthrough in the 23rd after Torres latched onto David Luiz's pass and moved the ball forward to Ramires, who calmly dinked it over Al Habsi.
Al Habsi did well, though, to tip over a header from Torres as Chelsea continued to test Wigan with shots.
Lampard flashed wide from distance before setting up Oscar to curl over before the second came in the 56th.
Cesar Azpilicueta brought down Cahill's deep free kick with his chest, cut into the penalty area and squared to Hazard, who swept the ball under Al Habsi in the 56th.
But the visitors produced a response inside two minutes. James McArthur sent the ball to Maloney on the edge of the penalty area. Cech rushed off his line, but Maloney rounded him before dispatching the ball in the net from a tight angle.
But Wigan couldn't conjure an equalizer before Chelsea's late goals added gloss to the win.
From Hazard's cutback, Lampard blasted in from the edge of the penalty area. In stoppage time, Al Absi batted away a shot from Azpilicueta, but substitute Marco Marin reacted, sending a low header into the net to score his first goal since joining from Werder Bremen in July.
All that Chelsea was missing was a goal from Torres. The Spain striker was denied his first league goal since Dec. 23 by Al Habsi's late save.