Lampard thunderbolt lights up Stamford Bridge
EVEN when Michael Ballack turns in an imperious match-winning display Frank
Lampard comes along and steals the Germanís thunder.
Having given Chelsea an early lead, Ballack then put his side back in control
following an Alex Bruce equaliser.
Just when it seemed Ipswich might force a replay or even pull off a shock and
win the game, Ballack produced a stunning 59th-minute free-kick that would
have been the highlight of most games.
Ballack, who hadnít exactly pulled all the strings but was Chelseaís most influential
player, soon took his bow.
Until then Lampard had been very low key by his standards.
His shooting had been wayward and quite frankly after his emotionally-charged
match-saving display against Stoke the previous week, the adrenalin wasnít
But in the 85th minute Didier Drogba, who had come in from the cold and off
the bench, won a free-kick more than 35 yards out and right of centre.
It was so far out that Ipswich didnít feel the need for a full wall. Surely,
Lampard would send over a cross. But no. He strode up and unleashed a savage
The shot was so hard and true that even the tiniest of deflections barely
altered the trajectory as it flashed way beyond the reach of Richard Wright
and into the far corner.
Ballackís dead-ball effort had oozed class but Lampardís simply had the
greater wow factor.
When Ballack arrived on a free transfer from Bayern Munich three years ago
earning £130,000 a week, many suggested Lampard would be left in the shadows
ó or even forced out.
Lampard responded not only by becoming Chelseaís talisman but also their
top earner, with Ballack playing second fiddle.
And with the Germanís contract up at the end of the season, he may have to
face the prospect of taking a pay cut or moving on.
Certainly, on the face of it, Ballack has done little so far this season
to make a case that Chelsea would be foolish to let him go on a free.
He has yet to score in the Premier League, his only strike before yesterday
having come in the 4-1 replay win at Southend in the previous round.
Assistant coach Ray Wilkins admitted: ďYes, thatís surprising but a lot of
people donít always see the contribution Michael makes.
ďHe covers more acres than anyone, in that regard he is untouchable.Ē
Untouchable? Maybe for Germany but not for Chelsea. Yesterday, though, he
made his most significant contribution this season.
Phil Scolari had put out a strong side and it appeared as though it would
be a cakewalk when Ballack slid home a low Ashley Cole cross in the 16th minute.
But while Ballack looked up for more, the rest around him ó Lampard included
ó took their foot off the gas.
Gradually, Ipswich worked their way back and in the 34th minute punished
Chelsea, not for the first time this season, for lax defending at a set-piece.
An Owen Garvan free-kick bounced off Ricardo Carvalho, who later suffered
a hamstring injury, to Steve Bruceís son Alex and he lashed the ball home
from close range.
Either side of half-time Ipswich showed flashes they might pose Chelsea problems
with striker Pablo Counago producing some deft and threatening touches.
But just before the hour Ballack curled home a glorious free-kick from 22
After Jon Stead then Kevin Lisbie went agonisingly close to nicking a replay,
Lampard made sure he retained the free-kick bragging rights with that stunning
It was bliss for him and the Chelsea punters but, er, a kick in the Ballacks
for their German midfielder.
Rob Shepherd (News of the World)