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Chelsea 3 - 2 Birmingham


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Stamford%20Bridge%20Stadium.jpgChelsea 3 - 2 Birmingham CityPremier League - 12 August - Stamford Bridge - 13:30 kick-off_44053882_pizarro203.jpgMichael Essien scored an unbelievable match winner to ensure Chelsea became the new, proud owners of a Premier League record.Avoiding defeat to Birmingham City, who finished second in the Championship last campaign, means that Chelsea have now gone 64 games unbeaten in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge, last tasting defeat at home to Arsenal in February 2004.There have been many memorable matches since, though the entertainment provided by the teams fielded by José Mourinho and Steve Bruce respectively offered plenty of enjoyable action and drama.But for all Chelsea's possession and dominance of general play, Birmingham played their part in a five-goal-thriller, with Chelsea emerging the victors on the opening day of the season. Bruce's side arrived in the English capital with a game plan, and it took the quality of Claudio Pizarro and Florent Malouda on their competitive debuts, and the driving force of Michael Essien to see that the three points went to the deserving winners.With a number of players out injured, José Mourinho opted to field a similar team to the one that had began the Community Shield defeat to Manchester United. Cech remained in goal, with Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole on the flanks. The impressive Ben Haim continued to deputise for John Terry, who was out with a foot problem. Ricardo Carvalho completed the back four. Starting in the front-three the week before, Shaun Wright-Phillips was deployed alongside Frank Lampard and Michael Essien in the midfield, with Florent Malouda operating to the left-hand-side. Claudio Pizarro made his debut for the club and Salomon Kalou made a much-welcomed return from injury.Mourinho's tactical brilliance allowed him to switch between the more defence-orientated 4-4-2 and the 4-3-3, with Malouda moving forward into the front-line to add an extra dimension of width to the play when Chelsea were in possession.Steve Bruce opted to play in a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Olivier Kapo supporting the lone front man Mikael Forssell; a former Chelsea favourite and Finnish international. Star player Gary McSheffrey played out wide left in the four-man midfield, along Franck Queudrue made his competitive debut for the club. Colin Doyle began in goal; a hard and significant decision for Bruce to make.The Stamford Bridge stadium was in full-voice; behind the goal at the Matthew Harding End, the supporters were in full voice and the new season-ticket holders in the Shed Upper were making quite an improved atmosphere. Flags were flown, songs were sung and friendly banter was exchanged - not to mention the alcohol consumed._44053843_ab5.jpgThe noise seemed to encourage Chelsea on throughout the game, but it was the visiting side who creating the better chances of the lively opening exchanges. After just three and a half minutes, it was Chelsea old boy Forssell that stole a march on the defence, and shot at Cech's goal. Cech fumbled the powerful shot but gathered on the second attempt.News was filtering through that Arsenal had come from a goal down to beat Fulham 2-1 at the Emirates stadium - an insignificant result in the meanwhile, but the Chelsea fans urged their side onwards to victory.The team responded, with Frank Lampard; skipper for the day, acknowledging the support from the crowd. Kalou picked up a brilliant pass by Michael Essien and his run at the Birmingham defence caused havoc. Unselfishly cutting back to Malouda, the Frenchman shot first-time with his weaker foot and saw the ball clear the crossbar by a matter of inches. Knowing he should have scored, Malouda vowed to get on the score sheet later, and make amends.His frustration became greater moments later when Birmingham took a shook lead, totally against the run of play. And who else but Mikael Forssell, who rose above a number of Chelsea defenders to head home past the stranded Petr Cech who was wrong-footed. Forssell did not seem to know much about the header, but somehow reacted fast enough to steer the ball past Cech who could only grasp at thin air in anguish._44053820_aa.jpgThe goal came as a result of bad marking by the Chelsea defence, when Gary McSheffrey was fouled midway inside the Chelsea half. Floating the ball in, it deceived everyone, not least Petr Cech. On the touchline, injured skipper John Terry was shaking his head.Before Birmingham opened the scoring, Chelsea had two excellent goal scoring opportunities, both involving the wonderful Shaun Wright-Phillips. Pizarro's looping header after 12 minutes did not test the goalkeeper following Wright-Phillip's cross and moments later, provider-turned-finisher when Wright-Phillips smashed an angled drive just wide.Three minutes later, Chelsea's first goal of a new era at Stamford Bridge was scored. Malouda had drifted over to the right hand side of play, and passed to the unmarked Wright-Phillips. The winger's low, driven cross evaded a number of players, but Claudio Pizarro's first time strike found the bottom corner in professional style. Chelsea's number 14 had opened his account in some manner, and was clearly delighted with his goal._44053828_aa2.jpgIf Chelsea's goal on 17 minutes was all about breaking the defence down from the flanks and inwards, Chelsea's goal on 30 minutes was all about ignoring the defence was there completely.Malouda exchanged passes with Salomon Kalou after the former Lyon winger had found Frank Lampard. Lampard returned the ball to Kalou, whose delicate flick over the line of defenders found Malouda who had ran around the back of the centre-back pairing. Waiting for the approaching Doyle to go to ground, Malouda poked the ball around the rushing goalkeeper in fantastic fashion; another debutant on the score sheet. Chelsea had turned the game around in a quarter-of-an-hour.But Chelsea's lead lasted just a couple of minutes. Lampard had had a wonderful opportunity to put the Cup Kings 3-1 up, but Johann Djourou, on loan from Arsenal, blocked his low shot with Colin Doyle nowhere to be seen. Olivier Kapo, Birmingham's new signing from Juventus, beat Glen Johnson and made his way into the penalty area. Seeing few options, the French midfielder went for goal himself and blasted the ball past Petr Cech who could only admire the shot as it found the top corner of the Shed End goal. Suddenly, the party mood was drained out by the cheering of the delighted Birmingham fans.The game was entertaining; yes, but not going according to plan, and the half-time whistle blew with the scores locked at 2-2. Kalou's fantastic footwork opened up the Birmingham goal, but his half-volley after flicking the ball lacked accuracy and found the welcoming arms of Doyle._44053884_ab7.jpgMoments into the second half, Shaun Wright-Phillips created another brilliant opportunity. Shooting just wide, the Englishman was annoyed when he saw his effort power into the side netting. However, Michael Essien had no such trouble locating the goal. Wright-Phillips received the ball out wide following a Malouda crossed that evaded Lampard and slotted it back to the rushing Essien. Without even looking up, Essien powered a curling shot into the roof of the net and celebrated his stunning winner with the fans in the Matthew Harding Lower tier. Though he was booked for his celebrations and injured moments later, Ghana's favourite son ensured the part started with fifty minutes on the clock._44053918_ab10.jpgBefore seventy minutes had passed, Mikel and Drogba had been introduced to the fray, replacing the excellent Pizarro and Essien, both players receiving standing ovations.Kalou's clever pass found Wright-Phillips whose stinging shot on the 70 minute mark was well-dealt with by Colin Doyle, who was looking more assured as the second half progressed. Though he had made what could be regarded as several errors, the goalkeeper stood tall and made another excellent take whilst under pressure, collecting the ball with ease.Moments later, his presence denied Kalou, who was put off by the challenge of the goalkeeper, and failed to connect with Wright Phillips' low cross along the six yard box.Ben Haim, quietly effective, made a brilliant stretching clearance to stop Forssell from entering the penalty area, and a poor clearance by the rushing Colin Doyle found Drogba on the half-way-line and an empty goal. The Ivorian volleyed the ball goal wards, and his curling shot was feet wide - yet still close enough for the Chelsea TV commentators to suddenly get excited.The late introduction of the solid Steven Sidwell was almost a brilliant one. Drogba's powerful form passed the ball to Sidwell, who turned and fired towards goal in a single, flowing movement. His brilliance almost found the net, but the ball skimmed the far post. Doyle could argue he had the shot covered.The final whistle blew after a tense few minutes of Birmingham knocking on the Chelsea door, but an enormous cheer erupted from all around the stadium as Chelsea claimed another three points and temporarily found themselves third in the Premier League table on goal difference. A job well done - and yet another mention in the record books.Squads and RatingsChelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Johnson, Ben-Haim, Carvalho, A Cole; Wright-Phillips, Essien (Mikel 69), Lampard, Malouda (Sidwell 82); Kalou, Pizarro (Drogba 63).Goals Pizarro 14, Malouda 30, Essien 49.Booked Essien 50, Carvalho 78. Birmingham (4-4-1-1): Doyle; Kelly, Djourou, Ridgewell, Queudrue (Parnaby 50); Larsson, Muamaba, Nafti (De Ridder 74), McSheffrey (Jerome 68); Kapo; Forssell.Goals Forssell 14, Kapo 35.Booked Larsson 76 Statistics and line-ups by Paul Mason of www.chelseafc.comChelsea RatingsCech - 6 - Could do nothing about Kapo's goal - was unfortunate to concede twice.Ben Haim - 7 - Quietly effective. Denied Birmingham the space they needed.Carvalho - 7 - Carvalho lead from the back, and marshalled the defence well in Terry's absence.Johnson - 6 - Made one or two mistakes but was solid in the second-half.A. Cole - 7 - Another solid performance by Cole, who tried to assist the wingers by playing clever cross-field balls.Lampard - 7 - Lampard was quietly effective and had two excellent chances, but failed to connect.Essien - 7 - A goal which disguised a lousy first fifteen minutes. Was more involved as the game went on, and unfortunately got injured.Mikel - 6 - Didn't put a foot wrong.Sidwell - 6 - Made a big impact, and looked as solid as ever, unlucky not to score.Malouda - 8 - Another game and another goal for Malouda. Wright-Phillips - 9 - Fantastic performance. Involved in everything, and could have got on the score sheet twice himself.Pizarro - 7 - 61 minutes played, 1 goal scored. An ideal start. Was involved in all the attacking play.Kalou - 8 - Fantastic performance by Kalou, involved in everything and so unlucky not to score.Drogba - 6 - Made a huge impact and his presence gave the Chelsea forward line an extra dimension.Referee - 5/10 - Fair game.Chelsea - Stats - Birmingham3 - Goals - 26 - Shots on Target - 49 - Shots off Target - 52 - Blocked Shots - 15 - Corners - 315 - Fouls - 193 - Offsides - 22 - Yellow Cards - 00 - Red Cards - 0 56% - Possession - 44% Star ManSWP_549661.jpgShaun Wright-PhillipsViews of the Blues
Magnificent game. Apart from the goals I liked the game play and the goals of Chelsea. Especially Essien's... I mean to shoot it with the first touch like this. We have the goalkeeper to thank but it was a hard ball for the goalie because it was curling.I liked SWP very much. Definitely the sharpest winger we have at the moment. Gave some good deliveries in and was full of energy for the whole game. Ran like hell.I also liked Pizarro, Malouda, Kalou, Essien and Ben Haim. Lampard also gave some good passes and looked comfortable dictating midfield.When we get Terry, Ballack and Sheva back, then we'll play much better. Also we need Bridge. I was pleased with Johnson. He did play quite well but looked a bit shaky in defence.
Fantastic stuff. Was a really good game to watch.The way we came back every time things looked a bit edgy.SWP, what a change in him. Past couple of games he's been great. Really looking like he's settling in and providing some great crosses etc. Malouda again cant beat his performance, looking really, really promising this lad.And Pizarro and Kalou, both really good. Great goal from Pizarro. Can’t not mention Essien's goal aswell, something about his goals...he may not score all the time but when he does they are absolute peaches!Nice to see Drogba back aswell....plus breaking Liverpool’s league record. Good start to the season, start as you mean to go on!
What a great way to start the new season; a brand new record, a great game and a really good showing from the front line.SWP was absolutely amazing today, I've never seen him play so well for Chelsea. He looks the same player he was at Man City and maybe more.Pizarro got himself on the score sheet and that will do wonders for his confidence.Malouda was again impressive and took his goal well.I was very impressed with the way we played and I feel very confident about the upcoming season.
Great game and great result. We played some cracking football in this game and all 3 goals were outstanding. Great to see Pizarro and Malouda open their accounts in the first game of the season.I think that this 4-4-2 formation will be used a lot with the 4-3-3 reserved for the more difficult sides. We look far more attacking in this formation.Not surprised to see a few moans about Glen, but barring the second goal he had a very good and solid game. Nobody is perfect and will win every challenge. Everyone played well in this game and it was really good to see.

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