Chelsea earned its second straight Premier League home win on Saturday, defeating struggling Wigan 4-1 at Stamford Bridge on the strength of some superb play in midfield.
After some back and forth action early on, the Blues' Ramires broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute, scoring on a brilliant pass from forward Fernando Torres. Chelsea would carry the 1-0 lead into halftime.
Roughly 10 minutes into the second half, Chelsea's Eden Hazard made it 2-0 after catching Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi flat-footed. The celebration wouldn't last long however, as Wigan striker Shaun Maloney buried a shot in the bottom right corner just two minutes later, 2-1.
But after nearly a half hour of intense drama, Frank Lampard secured the three points for Rafael Benitez's men, scoring in the 87th minute on a clinical finish from roughly 20 yards out (via STATS Football):
STATS Football @STATS_Football
#CHEWIG - Frank Lampard has scored for the 4th time in Chelsea's last 5 home fixtures against Wigan. #BPL2/9/2013, 4:46:11 PM
Substitute Marko Marin would add a meaningless goal in injury time to complete the 4-1 shellacking.
The win means that Chelsea will remain steady in third place in the league table, behind Manchester United and Manchester City and just ahead of Tottenham Hotspur.
Meanwhile, Wigan's away defeat means that Roberto Martinez's club remains in the bottom three of the table, and has moved one step closer to relegation at season's end.
Peter Cech, Chelsea: B
The veteran goalkeeper wasn't at his very best on Saturday, but he delivered when it counted, making a few key saves and never making the bone-headed errors to potentially cost his squad.
Shaun Maloney, Wigan: B
Credit Maloney for pouring in a key goal for Wigan. After going down 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, he and his teammates could have easily waved the white flag right then and there.
The Scottish forward remained aggressive throughout the game on Saturday and was the only player to score for the Latics. Saturday also marked the first time in Maloney's career that he scored in back-to-back Premier League matches.
Ramires, Chelsea: A
Ramires' early strike proved to be one of the biggest differences for Chelsea on Saturday, putting them on top quickly. Some other midfielders may have made a mess of such a goal scoring opportunity, but Ramires calmly found the back of the net.
Here's a look at Ramires' reaction to the goal (via Premier League):
Premier League @premierleague
PHOTO Ramires celebrates his 1st #BPL goal since he scored 2 in the 8-0 win over Aston Villa on 23 Dec #CHEWIG http://t.co/SWErGAHn2/9/2013, 3:51:20 PM
Ali Al Habsi, Wigan: D
Al Habsi had a game to forget. He let by four goals on the road, crushing Wigan's chances at possibly earning a point.
Not all of the blame falls on his shoulders, though, the defense could have played a much better game, preventing some of Chelsea's well-timed through balls. Still Al Habsi wasn't able to make the saves when Wigan needed them, and that's disappointing for Martinez and company.
Fernando Torres, Chelsea: B
Torres played a key role on Chelsea's first half goal, providing Ramires with a beautiful through ball to put the Blues ahead 23 minutes in. In addition to his unselfish play, Torres applied plenty of pressure on Wigan's defense, recording two shots on goal (the same number as Frank Lampard) in the 2-1 victory.
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