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May 11, 2013

Frank Lampard sets Chelsea record

Frank Lampard scored twice to become Chelsea's all-time leading goal scorer as the Blues rallied for a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Saturday.

The England midfielder, restored to the starting XI ahead of Wednesday's Europa League final, canceled out Christian Benteke's opener with a sweet left-footed effort just after the hour mark before sealing the points -- and the record -- with a close-range effort three minutes from time.

That left him with 203 career goals for the Blues, a fitting landmark forged over 12 years at Stamford Bridge by Bobby Tambling.

"It means everything, it's amazing," said Lampard, who is out of contract at the end of the season. "The support I've had from teammates, you saw that at the end and I'm thankful to every one of them because they're the ones that put it on a plate for me sometimes.

"And the fans, they've been with me for a long time and were probably frustrated alongside me not getting there so I'm just delighted."

Victory in a dramatic match that saw both Ramires and Benteke sent off for two yellow cards effectively assures Chelsea's Champions League status next season, while leaving Villa still in the relegation equation.

The first half had been such a different story, with Villa ending it 1-0 up and with a man advantage.

Nathan Baker was handed a yellow card in the fourth minute after going in hard on Juan Mata, but that did not curb Villa's combative streak as a number of full-blooded challenges went in.

Benteke was proving his usual handful in attack too, winning nearly everything in the air, and it was no surprise to see him on the scoresheet in the 15th minute. He beat Gary Cahill to a Brad Guzan clearance and then peeled off at speed to take Yacouba Sylla's return pass. The Belgian then glided past Cahill with ball at feet and slipped his shot past Petr Cech at the near post.

Villa had the bit between its teeth and Delph almost added a second two minutes later when he rode Ramires' challenge and shot just wide from 25 yards.

By the time the customary applause for retiring captain Stiliyan Petrov, who continues his battle with leukemia, arrived in the 19th minute, the home side was well on top.

Demba Ba almost spoiled the party when he got on the end of Mata's chipped pass but Guzan smothered his attempt from close range.

On the half-hour, Lampard came desperately close to his landmark goal, seeing a low free kick squirm out of Guzan's hands and roll gently against a post.

Chelsea was starting to find its feet in the game when a series of refereeing decisions took center stage.

The first two appeared to err on the lenient, with Benteke booked rather than sent off for an elbow on Cesar Azpilicueta and Terry also shown yellow despite seeming to be the last man when he felled Sylla.

Lee Mason did flourish red just before the interval though, as the struggling Ramires earning a second booking for high feet on Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Rafael Benitez reshuffled at halftime, sending on David Luiz to anchor the midfield and taking off the ineffective Victor Moses.

Villa's extra man lasted only until the 58th minute, when Benteke was sent off for a second yellow, again for high feet.

Within two minutes the scores were level and Lampard was celebrating his long-awaited record-equalling goal. Eden Hazard rolled him the ball from the right flank, he shepherded it into a more central position and then fired home a curling left-footed effort.

He was duly mobbed by teammates as he ran to the away support to take in the moment.

The frenetic pace continued, with Chelsea believing it had gone ahead after 71 minutes.

Former Villa man Cahill took the ball on the chest before prodding goalwards at the back post.Guzan was beaten but Sylla managed to trap it on the line. Ba and Ashley Westwood both moved in, with the latter convincing officials his clearance came before the ball had crossed.

Terry departed on a stretcher after suffering an injury that will place his own Europa League final hopes in severe doubt, but Lampard was yet to have his final say on proceedings.

The winner came from a fine Chelsea move, with Hazard taking in a one-two in left channel before cutting the ball across goal for Lampard.

"Bobby Tambling is a great man, he's not been well ... I was pleased to level it but I didn't want to overcook that celebration out of respect for him," Lampard siad. "But to then go and break it, I was delighted."

American defender Eric Lichaj made his first start for Villa since an FA Cup match against Millwall on Jan. 25 and his first Premier League start since Dec. 29 versus Wigan.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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