Rafael Benitez puts focus on Frank Lampard's 200th goal for Chelsea
Crowd trouble during win over former club West Ham should not detract from England midfielder's 200th Chelsea goal, Benitez says
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Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez insisted that ugly scenes sparked by Frank Lampard's 200th goal for the club during the 2-0 win over West Ham should not 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.
However, the 34-year-old's goal was greeted with anger by West Ham's travelling supporters as Lampard and John Terry celebrated the milestone in front of the away section of the ground.
Terry, who started the match on the substitutes' bench, had already responded to taunts from the east London club's fans by bending over to aim his backside towards them as he warmed up in front of them.
The atmosphere turned even uglier when Terry and Lampard - who have been hated by West Ham supporters since leaving for Chelsea in 2001 - were targeted with missiles thrown from the away crowd following the 19th-minute goal.
It was claimed that 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 the Blues' interim manager was adamant that the unsavoury 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.
The Spaniard's relationship with Lampard hardly got off to the best start when he went public with news that the midfielder would be allowed to leave at the end of the season. But the former Liverpool boss has grown to admire Lampard's professionalism, installing him as captain against the Hammers, and admitted that only Reds midfielder 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," he added.
"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 Liverpool is the source of much angst among the Chelsea faithful, has at last been able to create a more positive mood around the club this week.
The previous weekend's comeback to force an FA Cup quarter-final replay against Manchester United was followed by the Blues overturning a first-leg deficit to beat Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League last 16.
The win over West Ham also moved Chelsea into third place in the Premier League, leapfrogging Tottenham, who lost at home to Fulham on Sunday.
"It's not been a bad week," Benitez said. "If the team are playing well, the fans will enjoy it, that is the main target for us.
"We have to stick together and make the right results. I'm really pleased with the atmosphere and really pleased with the team."
Meanwhile, West Ham sit six points above the relegation zone after a fifth defeat in their last seven matches. But Hammers boss Sam Allardyce refused to be downcast, insisting that few teams could have lived with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard, who laid on Lampard's goal and then netted the second with a fine finish early in the second half.
"Chelsea were the better team," Allardyce said. "It was a tough afternoon against talented players. Mata and Hazard were both outstanding, you can't defend against that."