Frank Lampard scored twice as Chelsea came from behind to secure a 2-1 victory at Everton on Sunday in Blues interim coach Rafael Benitez’s first game on Merseyside since leaving Liverpool.
South African Steven Pienaar gave Everton the lead in the second minute as the hosts made a flying start.
But Lampard pulled one back with a header just before half-time and in the 72nd minute he added a second from close range to earn a battling victory for Benitez’s side.
Lampard, 34, is facing an uncertain future, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season after 12 years at Chelsea.
“I know there is a lot of speculation and talk but I just want to continue playing”
But he now has six goals this season, with his first effort at Goodison Park meaning he has scored five league goals or more in 16 consecutive seasons.
“I know there is a lot of speculation and talk but I just want to continue playing,” said Lampard, one of the most prolific midfielders in Premier League history.
“I will always have Chelsea in me for life.”
Chelsea’s fourth successive Premier League win takes them up to third in the table, four points behind second-placed Manchester City with a game in hand.
For Benitez, who endured jeers from the Everton fans throughout a game that extended his unbeaten run against them to eight league matches, the only downside was losing goalkeeper Petr Cech to an ankle problem at half-time.
It was a frustrating day for the hosts, who dominated for long periods and hit the woodwork three times, only to slip to just a third league defeat of the season.
Everton’s bench showed just how stretched their squad was by the fresh absences of Phil Neville and Darron Gibson.
But the hosts could not have wished for a better start, which saw David Moyes’ men take the lead with just over a minute gone.
Phil Jagielka was playing out of position at right-back but he charged forward onto a Pienaar pass and his cross was headed against the post by Victor Anichebe.
Nikica Jelavic moved out of the way of the rebound to leave Pienaar the space to thump a shot into the bottom-left corner.
Croatian striker Jelavic saw a free-kick bounce away off the post as Chelsea struggled to cope with the hosts’ intensity.
The visitors were grateful to Cech for keeping them in the match when another Jagielka cross was pushed to the edge of the area by Ashley Cole and the Chelsea goalkeeper turned a shot around the post from Leon Osman.
Chelsea finally threatened when Ramires was allowed to burst through midfield and after his shot was blocked by John Heitinga, Juan Mata’s follow-up was saved by goalkeeper Tim Howard.
They went even closer when Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross ran across the Everton goal-line with just too much force for Cole to tap in at the far post.
Then, after a quick break, Pienaar picked out Jelavic and the striker’s low effort was pushed wide by Cech at full stretch.
But three minutes before the interval, Chelsea hit back when Lampard was left unmarked and guided in a header from a Ramires cross.
Lamps to the rescue
Chelsea suffered a blow at the break when Cech had to be replaced by Ross Turnbull.
But they did not seem disrupted and after a neat move, Azpilicueta passed inside for David Luiz to drive a shot high and wide of goal from just outside the area.
Fernando Torres also had his first effort on goal midway through the second period, hitting a powerful drive from just outside the area that was turned away by Howard.
Just as it looked like Everton were tiring, Osman burst onto a return pass from Anichebe and was denied by a fine low save from Turnbull.
Seconds later, Jelavic beat Turnbull with a header from a Baines cross but the ball rebounded back off the bar.
But with 20 minutes remaining, Lampard edged Chelsea in front when he turned in after Howard saved from Mata.
Sylvain Distin pulled off a fine block in added time to deny Torres a third Chelsea goal, while Jelavic shot straight at Turnbull in the dying seconds.