LONDON, Dec 30: Frank Lampard underlined his value to Chelsea with a well-taken double that secured a 2-1 win at Everton on Sunday to move the Londoners back up to third place in the Premier League.
The subject of intense speculation about his future at Stamford Bridge, midfielder Lampard reminded Chelsea’s power-brokers of his class as he scored either side of half-time to cancel out Steven Pienaar’s thunderbolt strike after just 63 seconds.
The 34-year-old England midfielder headed in a 42nd-minute equaliser from Ramires’ cross and grabbed the winner in the 72nd by turning the ball high into the net from close range.
“I know there is a lot of speculation and talk but I just want to continue playing,” said Lampard, one of the most prolific midfielders in Premier League history. “I will always have Chelsea in me for life.”
Victory moved Rafael Benitez’s side above Tottenham Hotspur into third place, four points behind second-place Manchester City and with a game in hand, while Everton remain sixth, three points below the top four.
On Saturday, Edin Dzeko shone to give 10-man City a battling 4-3 victory at Norwich to keep them in contention for the defence of their title.
Bosnian striker Dzeko scored twice in the first four minutes and another of his strikes was credited as an own goal by goalkeeper Mark Bunn at Carrow Road where Samir Nasri’s 44th-minute red card had threatened the champions’ dominance.
Dzeko made a stunning start but Anthony Pilkington’s 15th-minute goal and Nasri’s debatable sending off for aiming a head-butt at Sebastien Bassong left the game in the balance.
Sergio Aguero’s deft, lobbed finish made it 3-1 before a Dzeko strike came back off the post and hit Bunn on its way into the net, in between Russell Martin’s brace.
“Today we showed we are there for the title,” City manager Roberto Mancini said.
But Manchester United maintained their seven-point advantage over City at the top after Gareth McAuley turned the ball into his own net and substitute Robin van Persie netted in a 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at a sodden Old Trafford.
“We’re in a good position. We’re halfway there,” United manager Alex Ferguson said. “(Van Persie) changed the game for us.”
After 20 of 38 games, United have 49 points to City’s 42 with Chelsea on 38. Spurs have 36 points with Arsenal, Everton and West Brom level on 33.
A resurgent Arsenal went fifth after a thrilling 7-3 win over Newcastle United with contract rebel Theo Walcott — playing again as a central striker — scoring a hat-trick at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal took the lead three times, through Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski, only for Newcastle to hit back each time through Demba Ba, Sylvain Marveaux and Ba again.
Arsene Wenger’s men finally killed the game off in the latter stages, with Walcott completing his treble and substitute Olivier Giroud claiming a quick-fire brace.
“I’ve been saying for the past few weeks that I want to play up front and I am showing the manager what I can do,” said Walcott.
Ten-man Stoke City were facing a first home loss since February but a superb late Cameron Jerome strike secured a 3-3 draw with Southampton, who slipped into relegation zone.
Elsewhere, Aston Villa’s recent miseries continued as they sank 3-0 at home to Wigan Athletic to lie just a point and a place above the bottom three.
Reading climbed three points clear of last-placed Queens Park Rangers by beating West Ham 1-0 thanks to Pavel Pogrebnyak’s fifth-minute goal for only their second win of the season.
QPR remain eight points from safety after Luis Suarez scored a brace at Loftus Road on Sunday to condemn them to a 3-0 defeat in the final Premier League game of 2012.
The effervescent Suarez scored in the 10th and 16th minutes and a lop-sided first-half was rounded off by Daniel Agger’s header from Steven Gerrard’s cross in the 27th.
Results: Played on Sunday: Everton 1 Chelsea 2 Queens Park Rangers 0 Liverpool 3
Played on Saturday: Arsenal 7 Newcastle United 3 Aston Villa 0 Wigan Athletic 3 Fulham 1 Swansea City 2 Manchester United 2 West Bromwich Albion 0 Norwich City 3 Manchester City 4 Reading 1 West Ham United 0 Stoke City 3 Southampton 3 Sunderland 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2—Agencies