With one round left to play in the English Premier League, Chelsea have secured a top four spot, guaranteeing them a return to UEFA Champions League. It’s only slightly ironic that somebody who may not be with them next fall was the one to seal their fate; somebody who is now the leading scorer in club history.
With two second half goals today at Villa Park, Frank Lampard lifted Chelsea to a 2-1 win at Aston Villa, giving the third place Blues a six-point lead on fifth place Tottenham Hotspur. If Spurs get full points, they would also have to turn around a 17-goal gap in goal difference. And the Blues would have to lose next weekend at home against Everton.
Lampard’s goals also move him to 203 in his Chelsea career, passing Bobby Tambling to sit first on the club’s all-time scoring list. His 15 league goals also mark the third time in his career he’s reached that plateau, this being the 10th consecutive season Lampard’s posted double-digit tallies.
Lampard’s first pulled back Christian Benteke’s early opener, the Chelsea midfielder finishing high past Brad Guzan after his left-footed shot took a slight deflection off defender Nathan Baker. Minutes after Benteke had been sent off (evening the sides at 10 after Ramires’s earlier dismissal) and with just under half an hour to play, the Blues were even: 1-1.
Then in the 88th minute, Lampard was in the right spot as work from Eden Hazard and Ashley Cole gave the Belgian attacker a chance to slam a ball across the face of goal. Lampard was far post for the easy finish, one that likely pushes his club into Champions League.
Lampard, however, may not experience that campaign. With no contract for next year (and, reportedly, an offer only recently coming), the 12-season veteran at Stamford Bridge could be leaving the club, with only the Europa League final and the season finale next weekend left on his current Chelsea schedule. With 203 all-competition goals in 606 appearances, Lampard will leave the club as one of its most heralded players, if performances like today’s can’t forge a future for him at Stamford Birdge.
PRAGUE (AP) Czech champion Viktoria Plzen is close to signing Austrian midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz.
Plzen says Ivanschitz agreed terms for a contract lasting 1 + seasons and will sign it when the team returns from a training camp in Spain. Ivanschitz has already joined the squad at the Oliva Nova resort, the club says.
Ivanschitz helped the Seattle Sounders win their first MLS Cup in December.
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No financial details were given.
The 33-year-old Ivanschitz also played for Rapid Vienna and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Mainz in the Bundesliga, Levante in Spain and Panathinaikos in Athens.
Ivanschitz played 69 games for Austria in 2003-14, scoring 12 goals.
Joel Matip is going to get to play for Liverpool during AFCON after all.
The center back had turned down the chance to represent Cameroon at the Africa Cup of Nations, and Liverpool was forced to apply to FIFA for a waiver.
[ PL PREVIEW: Swansea vs. Liverpool ]
Matip suffered an ankle injury in December, adding to his desire to stay at Anfield. He declared himself internationally retired and was one of six Cameroon players who refused call-ups for AFCON.
He last played for the Reds on Dec. 11, and can be selected by Jurgen Klopp against Swansea City on Saturday.
MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney says he raised 1.2 million pounds ($1.5 million) from a friendly game against former club Everton last year.
That represents the profits, after operational costs, from August’s sellout match at Old Trafford and goes toward the Wayne Rooney Foundation’s target of raising 5 million pounds for children’s charities.
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Rooney said: “I’d like to thank all the fans who came to the testimonial and made it such a special night. They’ve raised a huge amount of money for children who are disadvantaged and it will make a real difference to their lives.”
Rooney is one goal from breaking Manchester United’s scoring record, with the striker currently tied with Bobby Charlton on 249 goals.
Rooney joined United from Everton in 2004.
Robert Lewandowski picked up where he left off.
The Polish striker scored twice for Bayern Munich, once in stoppage time, as the Bavarians improved their Bundesliga lead to six points after toppling Freiburg 2-1 on Friday.
[ MORE: Bundesliga second half preview ]
And what a winner it was, Lewandowski taking a Douglas Costa cross with two juggling touches before hitting an offspeed bouncer inside the post.
It was the league’s first match following the winter/holiday break, giving Bayern a cushion before RB Leipzig takes the pitch against Eintracht Frankfurt in a Top Five tilt on Saturday.
Lewandowski moves closer to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the goal scoring chart. His 13th and 14th goals have him two back of Borussia Dortmund’s striker, as Lewandowski pursues a third Golden Boot in four seasons.
Full Weekend Schedule
Freiburg 1-2 Bayern Munich — Friday
Augsburg vs. Hoffenheim — Saturday
Schalke vs. Ingolstadt — Saturday
Darmstadt vs. Borussia Monchengladbach — Saturday
Werder Bremen vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Hamburger SV — Saturday
RB Leipzig vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Saturday
Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin — Sunday
Mainz vs. Koln — Sunday