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Unlucky Blues beaten by plucky Brum


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Birmingham 1-0 Chelsea

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Saturday 20 November, Premier League, St Andrew's.

Lee Bowyer's first half strike condemned Chelsea to their second successive Premier League defeat to leave the champions top of the table merely on goal difference.

Against the run of play, the former Newcastle United midfielder superbly fired beyond Petr Cech from Cameron Jerome's downwards header to give the hosts the lead and ultimately the three points which will move them out of the relegation zone and give them their first victory over Chelsea for thirty years and only their second win of the season.

Conversely for Carlo Ancelotti's side, it is a third defeat in four Premier League games and the fourth successive match away from home where they have failed to register a goal - worrying signs for the West London outfit who are now ahead of Manchester United (themselves 2-0 victors over Wigan at Old Trafford) by the virtue of their superior goal difference only.

Not even an Arsenal defeat at the hands of Tottenham will comfort the Chelsea team or their manager, who will find themselves incredibly unlucky not to have left St Andrew's with at least a point for their travails considering their absolute dominance of the game. Chelsea had nearly 30 shots compared to Birmingham's solitary effort - though these are the margins of victory and defeat at Premier League level.

The defeat means that for the first time since May 2006 when the Blues suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of Blackburn and Newcastle, Chelsea have lost successive Premier League matches - and considering the improving form of Sir Alex Ferguson's unbeaten Manchester United, today may be seen as a significant day in the title race come May.

But credit where it is due; Birmingham defended manfully with their centre-back pairing of Scott Dann and Roger Johnson imperious in defence, and Ben Foster infallible between the posts. Foster was excellent and the hosts owe their victory to the former Manchester United star after he made a string of important saves.

Salomon Kalou was the beneficiary of a Yuri Zhirkov ailment which granted him a starting place, and the Ivorian nearly opened the scoring early on as his shot rippled into the side netting after super play by stand-in captain Didier Drogba. Ramires was then guilty for lacking conviction inside the penalty area as his effort moments later barely troubled Foster. Nevertheless, Chelsea were the brighter of the two teams during the opening exchanges and demonstrating the sort of response Ancelotti will have demanded.

Florent Malouda then carved Birmingham open to send Drogba through on goal but Foster did well to block and the same player then headed over from a Nicolas Anelka cross as Chelsea looked to capitalise on their early dominance. However Bowyer supplied the sucker punch mere moments later - Seb Larsson's cross was knocked down by Cameron Jerome and the midfielder sublimely lifted the ball over Cech.

The Blues looked for an instant reply and only Foster's stunning save denied Drogba's brilliant header - it looked for all the world that the Ivorian would score his first goal away from Stamford Bridge since May but for Foster's intervention. Meanwhile a stoppage in play came about after Alex and Nikola Zigic were involved in a sickening clash of heads before Chelsea's automatic response; Cole and Anelka the next to work Foster, whilst Branislav Ivanovic should perhaps have done better with a headed chance.

A game of fine margins then saw Drogba head against the post as the first half drew to a disappointing close from Chelsea's perspective. But more Chelsea chances were to follow in the second half, as Ramires was denied only by a superb challenge by Johnson as he looked to shoot beyond Foster, whilst Kalou shot over in a crowded area and Drogba sent a free-kick straight at Foster as Chelsea looked to continue the pressure that suggested a goal was imminent.

Foster was then alert to rescue his side after Dann's woeful back-pass was seized by Kalou, only for the goalkeeper to make a perfect sliding challenge before being able to smuggle the ball behind for a corner. From the subsequent delivery, Ivanovic forced another excellent save out of the England international, who was enjoying an inspired display and demonstrating all the confidence a player recently called up to represent his country.

Ancelotti seemed at his wit's end, as even the deployment of Alex as a third striker behind Anelka and Drogba, with Kalou and substitute Sturridge supplying the width failed to open up the resilient Birmingham defence, whilst the distracting presence of Petr Cech inside Foster's box for Chelsea's final opportunity - a corner taken by Sturridge - failed to break the concentration of a determined Birmingham rearguard.

In football terms, this would be defined as the ultimate smash and grab. Chelsea should not be too disheartened - their performance was a massive improvement on anything seen in recent weeks and it was simply 'one of those days.' Unfortunately, they can't afford too many more if they want to win this title. A tough December sees them play Everton, Bolton and Manchester United at home, whilst visits to the Emirates and Tottenham will test Ancelotti's struggling players to the maximum.

At least a midweek game against MSK Zilina in the Champions League will help the players respond to their poor recent form and rescue some confidence.

___________________________________________________________________

Birmingham (4-4-2): Foster; Carr ©, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson, Ferguson, Bowyer, Fahey; Jerome, Zigic (Hleb 71)

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ferreira (Bosingwa 64), Alex, Ivanovic, Cole; Ramires (Sturridge 71), Mikel, Malouda; Anelka, Drogba ©, Kalou.

The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match was Birmingham's number 26, B. Foster

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I hadn't internet this weekend, and i still haven't read a single match report nor watched a highlight....

But i'm really happy to see that Carlo finally played Malouda in the Midfield ! The Alex's return is still a mystery for me lol. And i wonder why Kalou has started the game and why Carlo has used just two substitutes.

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A few post match thoughts:

  • Our crossing and corners are just terrible, can't lay all the blame at the one who delivers them cause frankly even Frank isn't the best corner taker in the world. Under Ancelotti it seems that we have banned crosses but there has to be done something about corners.
  • Playing a bunch of CFs doesn't open defenses, in the long run we have to get a proper winger. Poor Sturridge was playing closer to the corner flag than the penalty area, I'd love to see him get more minutes in his natural position.
  • I was very pleased with our performance and our spirit but now want to see us dominate games against teams that actually test our defense and our midfield (like Sunderland did).
  • Birmingham are just a terrible side,they should get relegated just for wasting time from the 1st half.

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A few post match thoughts:

  • Our crossing and corners are just terrible, can't lay all the blame at the one who delivers them cause frankly even Frank isn't the best corner taker in the world. Under Ancelotti it seems that we have banned crosses but there has to be done something about corners.
  • Playing a bunch of CFs doesn't open defenses, in the long run we have to get a proper winger. Poor Sturridge was playing closer to the corner flag than the penalty area, I'd love to see him get more minutes in his natural position.
  • I was very pleased with our performance and our spirit but now want to see us dominate games against teams that actually test our defence and our midfield (like Sunderland did).
  • Birmingham are just a terrible side,they should get relegated just for wasting time from the 1st half.

Don't forget, Ben Foster was on form. Also, I made the point before, it makes sense now why Drogba used to take corners and free kicks. He actually puts a lot of pace on the ball, so any little touch would send the ball in the back of the net.

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