Stoke City's Jonathan Walters (C) reacts after missing a
penalty against Chelsea during their English Premier League
match at the Britannia Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent.
Two own goals by Stoke City forward Jonathan Walters set
Chelsea on their way to a 4-0 Premier League victory that gave
under-fire interim manager Rafael Benitez some respite and
lifted his side to third place.
Walters had a nightmare afternoon at the Britannia stadium,
putting through his own net with a diving header on the
stroke of halftime, then beating Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic
again with a header from a corner just past the hour. He also
missed a late penalty.
Stoke have not beaten Chelsea in the league since 1975 and
Frank Lampard's penalty and a fine Eden Hazard goal put the
Londoners one point ahead of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur
who drew 0-0 at Queens Park Rangers in the lunchtime kickoff.
Rangers prop up the standings after Reading staged a
remarkable comeback to beat West Bromwich Albion 3-2, scoring
three times in the last eight minutes after trailing to
Romelu Lukaku's double.
Aston Villa dropped into the bottom three following
Southampton striker Rickie Lambert's contentious first-half
penalty that secured their fellow strugglers a 1-0 victory at
Leaders Manchester United host fierce rivals Liverpool on
Monday before second-placed Manchester City, seven points
behind Alex Ferguson's side, complete the weekend programme
Chelsea moved within four points of City, and 11 behind
United, after getting a helping hand - or head - at Stoke,
normally ferocious opponents on home turf.
Victory should bring some relief to Benitez amid growing
discontent among Chelsea fans still seething at the
Spaniard's appointment and his team's inconsistent
In their previous two games Chelsea suffered a shock home
league defeat by QPR followed by a midweek loss to Swansea
City in the first leg of the Capital One (League) Cup
semi-final at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea also got a boost on Saturday with the return to
first-team action of captain John Terry after two months out
with a knee injury.
Terry replaced Juan Mata after 79 minutes although he did
concede the late penalty which the hapless Walters struck
against the top of the bar.
Reading gave their fans hope that they can stay up with an
unlikely win over West Brom at the Madjeski stadium.
Until the 82nd minute they had been run ragged by on-loan
striker Lukaku but Jimmy Kebe started a memorable comeback.
Adam Le Fondre then equalised from the penalty spot with two
minutes to go before Pavel Pogrebnyak pounced in the last
"We were really resilient. We have got great character,"
Reading manager Brian McDermott told Sky Sports.
The main talking point at Villa Park surrounded Lambert's
34th minute penalty that earned Southampton the three points.
Enda Stevens was penalised for bringing down Jay Rodriguez
and both managers agreed the decision was harsh.
"Enda Stevens was not even close to him and that is the most
hurtful thing. I think referee Mark Halsey will be
embarrassed by that," said Villa boss Paul Lambert.
His opposite number Nigel Adkins agreed, stating: "For me
there is no contact with the player but the referee has a
decision to make.
"All we can do at our place is make sure the players are not
diving. We expect the players to behave properly, it is not a
dive from Jay Rodriguez, there was no contact, but if the
player had not moved his leg away, there would have been
Goalscorer Lambert took a different view. He said it was a
QPR manager Harry Redknapp had to be content with a point in
his first game against his former club Tottenham Hotspur.
Redknapp, sacked by Spurs in June, hailed a "fantastic"
performance from his side as they stifled their opponents for
In other matches, fifth-placed Everton and Swansea battled to
a goalless draw at Goodison Park, as did Norwich City and
Newcastle United at Carrow Road while Sunderland thumped West
Ham United 3-0 at the Stadium of Light.
Fulham drew 1-1 at home to Wigan with Franco Di Santo's
equaliser lifting the visitors out of the relegation places,
ahead of Aston Villa on goal difference.