Lampard scores the first of his four goals against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer, at Stamford Bridge
Frank Lampard passed the 150 goal mark for Chelsea as they threw the gauntlet down to Premier League pace-setters Manchester United by destroying Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge.
Lampard's four goals made him the third-highest scorer in the club's history eclipsing legends Roy Bentley and Peter Osgood with 151 goals.
His efforts, two from the penalty spot, were the centrepiece of an emphatic Chelsea victory as they followed up their 5-0 midweek win at Portsmouth with another goal-laden attacking display.
And as coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted the disappointment of their Champions League exit at the hands of Inter Milan may yet aid their attempts to regain the title, Chelsea's embarrassing superiority over a Villa side with sights set on the top four provides the perfect tonic for next Saturday's visit to Old Trafford.
It was a win made all the more impressive because it was achieved without main marksman Didier Drogba, who was rested on the substitutes' bench after picking up a knock in the victory at Fratton Park. To say he was not missed is an understatement.
Lampard gave Chelsea an early lead when he converted Florent Malouda's cross at the far post, but John Carew quickly put Villa level after good work by Ashley Young.
The game took a crucial twist right on half-time when Lampard put Chelsea back in front from the spot after Yuri Zhirkov was brought down by James Collins - and there was no way back for Villa as Ancelotti's side cut loose after the interval.
Malouda took advantage of more fine work from Zhirkov to beat Friedel, and Lampard completed his hat-trick with another penalty. He made his mark in Chelsea history by slipping his spot-kick comfortably past Villa keeper Brad Friedel after another run from the rampant Zhirkov drew a foul from Dunne.
Villa crumbled and Malouda piled on the agony after he was set up by Lampard and substitute Salomon Kalou made it six when he shot low past Friedel after Nicolas Anelka had been given what seemed like an age to turn in the area.
Desire to win motivates Chelsea - Wilkins
It was fitting that Lampard rounded off the rout with his fourth goal in the dying seconds, turning home his effort inside the area as Villa gave every impression of a side who simply could not wait for the whistle to sound.
And as if this was not enough to ignite ecstasy around Stamford Bridge, the roars were deafening as news of Birmingham City's late equaliser against Arsenal filtered through.
Villa actually made the brighter start and won a succession of corners, so it was against the run of play that Lampard made the breakthrough for Chelsea after 14 minutes. Villa's defence allowed Malouda's driven cross to fly right across the face of goal, leaving Lampard to steal in for a sliding finish at the far post.
The goal should have banished Chelsea's early uncertainty, but they were also guilty of defensive carelessness as Villa drew level just before the half-hour.
Again it was a cross that caused the problem as Young delivered into the area, Zhirkov appearing blissfully unaware of the giant Carew's presence behind him as he let the cross go, presenting the striker with the simplest of finishes.
Lampard praises Chelsea team display
Chelsea ended an undistinguished first half, which gave little hint of the riches to come, in the ascendancy as Lampard restored their lead from the spot a minute before the interval.
Referee Peter Walton pointed to the spot as Zhirkov went down under the challenge from James Collins as he raced into the area, leaving Lampard to thrash the penalty beyond Friedel.
If Villa had any plans to mount a second half revival, they were swept away as Chelsea ran riot after the break in brilliant fashion.
Malouda made it three for Chelsea after 57 minutes when he swept in Zhirkov's inviting cross - and the Russian was instrumental as they extended their lead, allowing Lampard to complet his treble from the spot five minutes later.
O'Neill angered by Villa capitulation
Zhirkov surged into the area and was upended by Dunne. Lampard stepped forward to beat Friedel again and reach his landmark goals tally.
Villa boss Martin O'Neill was pondering the introduction of Stewart Downing when the outstanding Malouda made it five after 68 minutes. Lampard filled the role of creator in another move that sliced Villa apart, simply rolling the ball into Malouda's path inside the area and he rifled a finish high past Friedel.
O'Neill's side had degenerated into a shambles, and Kalou and Lampard inflicted further late punishment before Villa were put out of their abject misery.
Second-placed Chelsea remain one point behind leaders Manchester United, who won 4-0 at Bolton in Saturday's late kick-off, and are now three points clear of third-placed Arsenal, who were held to a 1-1 draw at Birmingham
Chelsea assistant manager Ray Wilkins: "We have to keep winning. This is just another three points, although it is good to boost the goal difference.
"I tried to keep them going and even at the end we were pressing for eight.
"It was the perfect tonic before we go to Old Trafford next weekend. We fear nobody and we'll go there and play and hopefully we'll get the right result.
"Carlo Ancelotti is delighted and he's in there having a nice glass of red wine - good luck to him as he deserves it."
Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill: "We were well beaten by a fine side but we were also masters of our downfall.
"We stopped competing at 3-1 and that's unforgivable. We had the possibility of going 2-2 but it went 3-1 and the floodgates opened.
"It was a desperately poor performance against admittedly a fine side. We are devastated and we have to fight back from this."
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