Football: Chelsea reaffirmed their claims for a top-four spot with a dominant display against West Ham United.
Goals from Frank Lampard — his 200th in a Chelsea shirt — and Eden Hazard secured the win as they headed into the international break third in the league table.
The first fixture between the sides, back last December, was Benitez’s third match in charge. It resulted in a heavy beating at the hands of West Ham.
On a wet day in west London, Sam Allardyce’s men showed little in the way of the same courage that proved so vital to that performance. They were easily beaten by far superior opponents.
Benitez, of course, will be gone in May, but will be hoping to leave having made his mark by securing a place in next season’s Champions League. Perhaps even a trophy.
Chelsea’s performances of late have been encouraging, but the inconsistency must prove frustrating at times for their supporters.
This display was good, without being exceptional. Chelsea could have scored many more had it not been for the wasteful Demba Ba, who missed a series of chances.
Lampard, formerly of West Ham, put Chelsea in the way on 19 minutes with a firm header after a clever chipped pass from Hazard.
West Ham’s Andy Carroll had a goal ruled out shortly after. Replays suggested a correct decision by referee Michael Oliver, who spotted a foul by the striker.
By the time impressive Hazard scored the second, five minutes into the second half, West Ham’s players looked to be on the verge of giving in. It remained that way for the rest of the match.
Chelsea now face a fixture pile-up, a result of progressing into the quarter-finals of both the FA Cup and the Europa League.
They will play four games in eight days following the international break, beginning with the trip to Southampton on March 30 before playing Manchester United in the FA Cup two days later, then matches against Europa League opponents Rubin Kazan, and Sunderland in the league shortly after.