Ugly scenes can't ruin Lampard milestone - Benitez
Updated: 2013-03-19 05:39
By Agence France-Presse in London (China Daily)
Frank Lampard of Chelsea pumps his fist after scoring against West Ham during the English Premier League match at Stamford Bridge in London on Sunday. Andrew Winning / Reuters
Rafael Benitez insisted the ugly scenes sparked by Frank Lampard's 200th goal for Chelsea in the 2-0 win over West Ham shouldn't overshadow the England midfielder's landmark achievement.
Lampard finally reached his double century for the Blues after a month stuck on 199 with a first-half header against his former club at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
But the 34-year-old's goal was greeted with anger by West Ham's traveling supporters as Lampard and John Terry celebrated the milestone in front of the away end.
Terry, who started the match on the substitutes' bench, had already responded to taunts from the east London club's fans as he warmed up in front of them by bending over to aim his backside towards them.
And the atmosphere turned even uglier when Terry and Lampard, who had been hated by West Ham supporters since leaving for Chelsea in 2001, were greeted with missiles thrown onto the pitch following the 19th minute goal.
It was claimed Terry was hit by a coin and fourth official Howard Webb told Benitez to instruct Chelsea's substitutes to warm up away from the West Ham fans after that.
But Blues interim manager Benitez was adamant the unsavory incident should not detract from Lampard's achievement, which moved him within two goals of Bobby Tambling's club record.
"When you score 200 goals you don't think too much about where you are celebrating, but after that you think it would have been better to be in another part (of the stadium)," Benitez said.
"We said it would be better if they do the warm-up on the other side. Howard Webb told us. I don't know if it was his decision."
Benitez's relationship with Lampard hardly got off to the best start when he went public with the news the midfielder would be allowed to leave at the end of the season.
But he has grown to admire Lampard's professionalism, installing him as captain against the Hammers and admitted only Liverpool's Steven Gerrard can match his influence over the past decade.
"I'm just happy he has scored 200 goals. It's a fantastic achievement for any player, especially someone like him," Benitez said.
"Since I came to this country people have asked me about Gerrard and Lampard. Both are great players.
"We are talking about Lampard and you can see him training, always working hard. There are plenty more games left so hopefully he can score more."
Benitez, whose tenure with rival Liverpool has caused much angst among the Blues faithful, has at last been able to create a more positive mood around the club this week.
(China Daily 03/19/2013 page22)