- Premier League round-up
Lampard sinks Everton as Liverpool thrash QPR
Frank Lampard gave Rafael Benitez a timely reminder of his qualities with a match-winning performance for Chelsea as they beat Everton at Goodison Park, while Luis Suarez added another two goals to his tally for the season as Liverpool cruised past QPR.
Frank Lampard fired Chelsea back to third in the Premier League table as his two goals saw the London club come from behind to beat Everton 2-1 on Sunday.
Behind after barely a minute to Steven Pienaar's emphatic finish at Goodison Park, Lampard restored parity just before half-time with a fine header from Ramires' cross - before winning the game with a close-range finish with just under 20 minutes remaining, after the ball broke kindly to him in the box as he dallied on the verge of an offside position.
Everton pushed forward in the closing stages but, in a game where both sides went close on a number of occasions and Nikica Jelavic hit the woodwork twice, Rafa Benitez's side held on to move back above Tottenham in the table - and within four points of second placed Manchester City with a game in hand.
But the main focus of debate will be about the 34-year-old Lampard, who is eligible to sign a pre-contract agreement to join a foreign club in the summer on January 1. If he wanted to make a viable case for a new contract when his deal expires in June he is going the right way about it, although the noises from Stamford Bridge suggest there is little or no inclination to do so.
Lampard is now just one goal short of Kerry Dixon, who is the club's second all-time leading scorer with 193.
But it had looked like being a long afternoon on Merseyside for the visitors after Everton got off to a dream start with just 64 seconds gone. Phil Jagielka, playing at right-back in recent weeks because of injuries, swung over a cross which Victor Anichebe headed against the far post and Pienaar was quickest to react to the loose ball to drill it past Petr Cech.
That strike ensured Everton recorded their best Premier League goalscoring return in a calendar year, beating the previous best of 64 in 1996.
The same post denied Jelavic a second from a free-kick, but this time the rebound was not so kind to the Toffees and Chelsea were able to clear.
Chelsea slowly grew into the game prior to half-time - with Ashley Cole narrowly failing to turn in a cross - before Lampard, given far too much space, planted a header from Ramires' cross inside the near post to wrongfoot Howard.
Chelsea lost Cech to injury at the interval, giving Ross Turnbull his first league appearance of the season, as the second half started openly but scrappily.
Fernando Torres brought a good save out of Howard with a shot on the turn, before Osman then did the same to Turnbull at the other end after side-stepping a couple of half-hearted tackles. Then Jelavic's flicked header from Leighton Baines' cross beat the goalkeeper but not the crossbar - the 17th time this season they have hit the woodwork.
With 18 minutes remaining Everton were carved open by another driving Ramires run and Howard was desperately unlucky that, when he brilliantly denied Juan Mata, the ball fell to Lampard six yards out who could not miss an open goal.
Jelavic had a chance to snatch a draw deep into in added time but could not get enough power on his close-range effort and Turnbull gathered gratefully.
Queens Park Rangers' relegation woes deepened as they remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League after they were hammered 3-0 at home by Liverpool.
The Hoops will enter 2013 eight points adrift of safety after a first-half brace from Luis Suarez and a powerful header from Daniel Agger secured a comfortable victory for the visitors, who move up to ninth in the table.
Brendan Rodgers was forced to miss the game with illness, but it did not impact adversely on his side who burst out of the blocks at Loftus Road.
Having seen a number of early chances go begging, Suarez broke the deadlock after ten minutes, leaving Clint Hill glued to the spot as he strolled into the QPR box before slotting the ball low past Julio Cesar. The Uruguay international added his second inside six minutes, smashing in from close range after Nedum Onuoha blocked his attempted cross.
The QPR defence were forced deeper and deeper into their own half and struggling to mount a meaningful attack. Daniel Agger made it three inside half-an-hour, shrugging off his marker before rising high above the QPR defence to nod in a powerful header from Steven Gerrard's inswinging corner.
Two long-range efforts from Adel Taarabt, one flashing wide, the other forcing Pepe Reina into action for the first time was a rare glimmer of optimism for QPR, who were fortunate to head into the break only three goals behind after Gerrard's effort was cleared off the line by Ryan Nelsen.
Rangers were more organised after the break, and had chances of their own - Jamie Mackie failed to get on the end of Taarabt's ball across the face of goal, while substitute Esteban Granero should have done better with his free-kick from the edge of the area.
Suarez was denied his second hat-trick of the season as Cesar managed to get a hand on his fierce strike to palm it over the bar, and QPR held out in the second half, but the damage was already done.