The final scoreline was an exaggeration, but a 4-1 victory it was still the type of performance Chelsea fans have sought for a month, one that used to characterize the uncomfortable necessity that is Rafa Benítez. Early this winter, superficially lopsided results were somewhat common for Chelsea. Today, the three-goal win over Wigan was welcome relief – some needed proof their team’s unpopular manager is still capable of reasons.
Was it convincing? Not really. Was it beautiful? No. But was it comfortable – the type of outcome commensurate with the Blues’ talent? Absolutely, one that harkened by to the easy wins over Stoke, Southampton, and Aston Villa that characterized better times.
Saturday’s win over Wigan was of that ilk. Strong out of the gate, Chelsea eventually went up through Ramires just after the half-hour mark. The Latics had shown hints their play in-and-out of midfield might give Chelsea problems, but nothing came of it.
Eden Hazard, returning from his suspension, doubled the Blues’ lead early in the second half. Poor defending allowed Shaun Maloney to halve the lead two minutes later, but with late goals from Frank Lampard and Marko Marin, Chelsea had their victory.
The two late goals were notable for opposing reasons. For Marin, it was his first goal in Blue, the German international having joined the Blues this summer. For Lampard, the goal leaves the midfielder two short of 200 in a Chelsea kit.
The late insurance obscures some nervy moments near the end, but that’s soccer. At least at the English Premier League level, it’s not uncommon for a team, even one with superior talent, to experience some close calls. Detractors will cite moments before Lampard’s 86th minute goal as reason to think this match could have gone another way, but to hold that against Chelsea would unfair. If Manchester United is flawed but fabulous, Chelsea can surely be content with however they secure victories, particularly given their recent results.
Today’s was the Blues’ first win since Jan. 20, a four-game stretch that saw the team bow out of both the FA and League Cups. Draws against Swansea, Brentford and Reading before a loss from ahead at Newcastle dropped the Blues to new depths. On form, the team looked to have a Champions League fight on their hands, whereas for most of the season they looked destined to finished a comfortable third.
They may still be in for a fight, but after Saturday’s results, Chelsea find themselves four points up on fifth-place Arsenal. For a team that can only improve on what’s been a dour winter, it could be worse.