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Malouda brace fires Blues to second


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Chelsea 3-1 Birmingham City

Wednesday 20 April 2011 - Stamford Bridge

2354042210.jpg A Florent Malouda brace and an emphatic Salomon Kalou strike saw Chelsea move up to second in the Premier League - re-igniting faint hopes of retaining the title.

Malouda opened the scoring when he finished from close range inside three minutes, before Kalou doubled the lead before the half-hour mark with a stunning effort from distance. Malouda then further improved the scoreline for the hosts when he headed home a cross from débutante Ryan Bertrand before Sebastian Larsson converted a late consolation from the penalty spot for the visitors.

The win moves Chelsea to within six points of Manchester United, knowing that a potential title decider between the two sides next month at Old Trafford will most likely dictate the destination of the league crown this term - but further joy can be found in the fact Arsenal's season has once again capitulated after they surrendered a 3-1 lead to draw 3-3 with Tottenham at White Hart Lane, effectively consigning them to another trophyless season. It is the second time Arsene Wenger's side have conceded a two-goal lead against Harry Redknapp's men this term - and more dropped points means Chelsea's late push towards the title is now looking far more likely thanks to nine wins from their last twelve games being met by the stuttering form of their rivals.

Carlo Ancelotti's line-up was predictable considering the weekend's excellent win away at in-form West Bromwich Albion - the only change an enforced one as Paulo Ferreira replaced Branislav Ivanovic, who was not quite fit enough to start the match. He occupied the substitutes bench alongside a certain Spanish striker, but once again it was another 20-minute cameo without a goal for Fernando Torres, whose duck now stands well over 900 minutes of football since last putting the ball in the net.

The opening goal came thanks to that solitary change as Paulo Ferreira duly celebrated his status as a double centurion for the Blues - he expertly took down a raking John Terry pass before whipping in a devilish cross into the penalty area. Didier Drogba did what he does best at the front post; a deft flick-on taking the Birmingham rearguard out of the equation, allowing Florent Malouda to opportunity to net a second goal in as many home league matches.

Less than 200 seconds had been required for Chelsea to make the breakthrough, and it was lucky for the visitors that Ben Foster was in such fine form - the England international had already denied Drogba with a smart low save before Malouda had tucked home from close range. Foster, however, was left rooted when Frank Lampard launched an angled drive just wide of the upright, with Chelsea looking incredibly menacing. Birmingham were penned in their own half and the pressure was slowly being cranked up by the miserly midfield triumvirate of Lampard, Michael Essien and John Mikel Obi.

However that pressure was nearly the undoing of the hosts as Cech came to rescue of his team-mates with a superb fingertip save on 19 minutes. On the one occasion that the Birmingham out-ball had been successful, Cameron Jerome had done superbly to shake off the attentions of John Terry and David Luiz before sending in a raking shot that the in-form Czech did well to parry behind. The resulting corner was fruitless, but that warning shot was duly noted as Kalou lashed home a magnificent second.

Didier Drogba had been enjoying one of his best performances in a Chelsea shirt even with only 26 minutes on the clock. Here, there and everywhere, he had been unlucky to see an intuitive lob drift narrowly over the crossbar before he combined with Kalou to set up his compatriot. Didier would have been proud of the resulting finish as Chelsea's number 21 superbly bent the ball inside the post with Foster left rooted to the spot in admiration. It was a rare moment of genuine brilliance from the Ivorian poacher-supreme, and it was a goal that was nearly made all the sweeter moments later when the same player nodded wide a Ferreira cross.

With Chelsea dominant and relentlessly containing their guests, it was Drogba who again took to centre stage as he resumed a personal battle with Foster. Foster had been in fine form and exhuming confidence when Birmingham beat the Blues in November's reverse fixture, and again he was there to deny the Ivorian with a strong pair of wrists as the half came to an end with Ancelotti's men firmly in control.

There was to be no respite in the second half as Chelsea continued to exert pressure on Alex McCleish's men. Even with the influential Ramires out through injury, Chelsea's midfield trio were effortlessly bossing proceedings whilst Drogba was bamboozling the Birmingham defence through his trademark style of trickery, finesse and sheer brute force.

Ashley Cole was withdrawn to receive a well-deserved rest when young Bertrand came on for his Chelsea bow, and it was a début to savour for a player who has now made 145 career appearances despite being only 21 years old. Receiving the ball from Drogba, he launched a pinpoint cross into the box that was duly finished by the clean-shaven forehead of Malouda, sparking mass celebrations between Bertrand his colleagues. More of the same will certainly go down well with the Blues supporters - and he was nearly at it again minutes later but his low delivery was just about cut out by Roger Johnson.

Torres predictably entered the fray with 23 minutes left, and he was joined by Anelka and a change in formation - back to the diamond. Immediately the pressure Chelsea were exerting seemed to fade away as a lack of genuine wing play offered Birmingham a route back into the game. First Luiz unnecessarily conceded a penalty which Larsson emphatically despatched, before Matt Derbyshire - one-on-one with our afro-sporting centre-half - woefully toe-poked the ball well wide of Cech's goal from distance.

But whilst there was never any real threat that McCleish's men would set up a grandstand finale, such sloppiness was a cameo of exactly why Chelsea will not win the title this term. Six points is not an impossible tally when you consider there was once a 15-point gap between Chelsea and their northern rivals, but with just five games remaining and daunting trips to Goodison Park and Old Trafford to come, dreams of winning the title are unfortunately reduced to romantic thoughts that the Blues still have any chance of silverware this season.

Unfortunately, any real possibility of trophies this term was snatched from our hands when we were unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup by Everton in February, yet a second-placed league finish is a respectable return considering the doom and gloom predictions that accompanied the turn of the year. That being said, what point is there in being a football fan should optimism be abandoned? Realists and pessimists alike may doubt our chances - and in fairness they would be right to do so - but pipping Arsenal to second place in the season they were supposed to have 'come of age' is still a heart-warming outcome.


Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech, Ferreira, Luiz, Terry ©, Cole (Bertrand 56); Essien, Mikel, Lampard, Malouda 74); Kalou (Torres 67), Drogba, Malouda (Anelka 67).

Birmingham (4-4-1-1): Foster; Carr ©, Johnson, Ridgewell, Parnaby (Davies 79); Larsson, Gardner, Ferguson, Fahey; Hleb (Bentley 70); Jerome (Derbyshire 70).

The TalkChelsea.net man of the match was Chelsea's number 11, Didier Drogba

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The opening goal came thanks to that solitary change as Paulo Ferreira duly celebrated his status as a double centurion for the Blues - he expertly took down a raking John Terry pass before whipping in a devilish cross into the penalty area. Didier Drogba did what he does best at the front post; a deft flick-on taking the Birmingham rearguard out of the equation, allowing Florent Malouda to opportunity to net a second goal in as many home league matches.

Well I'm not really sure if expertly, I thought he had some problems with it but he managed it, that's the thing. In fact, it was a beautiful moment, starting with a superb just-like-super-Frank diagonal cross by JT, continueing with a great cross in where Drogs found Flo. Simple, fast, effective - brilliant.

I have two different thanks to Spuds v Goons game - first for having such awful streams, as everyone was focused on the NLD, second for helping us in going to the second place :whistling: KTF oh and nice reading Alex, but that's nothing new.

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In depth highlights (26 mins)

(Not uploaded by me, just found online)



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Brillaint as always!

Perefect to see Drogba back to his best, and it was a brillaint Cross from Bertrand. If Cole was taken off because of an injury i would definitely want him to start the next game. But that is if only Cole is injured :halo:

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Well... 95% of matches. After some games I just don't want to talk about the game, for instance when we drew 1-1 with Barcelona. On other occasions I just don't catch the whole 90 minutes or I don't have the time to write them. But I see your point haha :lol: I try and get them done within an hour of the final whistle unless I'm otherwise engaged, for example you'll have to wait til tomorrow for the WHU match report as I'm going out to get drunk xD

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