Dec. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Frank Lampard scored in each half as Chelsea rallied to win 2-1 at Everton yesterday and move into third position in soccer’s Premier League. Liverpool beat last-place Queens Park Rangers 3-0.
The Blues, now on a run of four league victories, have 38 points, four behind second-place Manchester City, with Manchester United on 49. Chelsea has played one fewer game than the top two.
“It was a great win,” Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez said in comments on the club’s website. “Everton were pushing and we made mistakes at the beginning but the reaction under pressure was really good.”
Luis Suarez got two of Liverpool’s goals as the Reds climbed one spot to ninth, ahead of Swansea on goal difference. Daniel Agger also scored at Loftus Road.
The Reds were without manager Brendan Rodgers, who missed the game with a virus. Glen Driscoll, the club’s head of performance, and goalkeeper Brad Jones also were absent to help stop the bug spreading to other players and staff.
At Goodison Park, Steven Pienaar gave Everton a lead within two minutes before the Toffees slumped to their first home league defeat of the season.
It was the first goal allowed by Chelsea in three league matches. Phil Jagielka crossed from the right and Victor Anichebe headed against a post, with Pienaar following up to fire into the net.
At 63 seconds, it was Everton’s fastest league goal since Aiyegbeni Yakubu scored after 47 seconds against Portsmouth in March 2008, according to Infostrada Sports.
The hosts continued to push forward and almost doubled the advantage on nine minutes from a free kick by Nikica Jelavic which struck the base of a post.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech, playing his 400th match for Chelsea, then dived to push clear a low effort from the edge of the penalty area by Leon Osman in the 26th minute.
The Blues had one of their first clear opportunities two minutes later, with Everton keeper Tim Howard denying Juan Mata. Ashley Cole just failed to connect with a cross from Spain midfielder Mata soon after.
Cech turned a low shot by Jelavic behind for a corner on 36 minutes and Chelsea tied it six minutes later when Ramires lifted the ball into the area and Lampard planted a header into the bottom corner of the net.
Both teams pressed for a second goal after the interval, with Ross Turnbull, who replaced Cech at halftime, making a couple of saves from Osman in his second appearance of the season. Turnbull was unable to stop a 69th-minute diving header from Jelavic that smashed against the bar.
At the other end of the field, Fernando Torres hit a powerful shot at goal that Howard dived to stop.
Lampard’s second goal came on 72 minutes. The England midfielder, out of contract at the end of the season, followed up to score from close range after Howard saved from Mata.
Everton’s best chance to earn a draw came in injury time, as Jelavic shot weakly into the arms of Turnbull. It ended his team’s seven-game unbeaten run, leaving Everton in sixth spot.
“It was always going to be very close and we did ride our luck at times,” Lampard told the British Broadcasting Corp. “We have to keep believing this season. There’s a long way to go.”
Liverpool’s top-scorer Suarez now has 16 goals this season after getting two in the opening 16 minutes at Loftus Road.
The Uruguayan surged past Clint Hill before placing the ball into the bottom corner of the net on 10 minutes, then six minutes later finished with a low shot after Nedum Onuoha had blocked his initial cross.
The Reds extended their lead further in the 28th minute with a header from Agger.
A shot by Reds captain Steven Gerrard was cleared off the line, Jordan Henderson fired just wide and Suarez had an effort tipped onto the bar by Julio Cesar.
“The first half was probably the best we’ve played this season,” Gerrard told Sky Sports. “We deserved the three points.”
QPR has now lost three successive games since recording its only league win. It is eight points behind 17th-place Aston Villa, which occupies the spot just above the three-team relegation positions.
Two days ago, Manchester United beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0, Manchester City won 4-3 at Norwich, Arsenal defeated Newcastle 7-3 and 10-man Stoke rallied to tie 3-3 against Southampton.
Reading beat West Ham 1-0, Tottenham defeated Sunderland 2-1, Wigan won 3-0 at Aston Villa, while Swansea beat Fulham 2-1.
The next round of games are on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2.
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