Birmingham City 0 – 1 Chelsea

Match reports

Independent on Sunday, Guy Hodgson: “Claudio Pizarro, the striker who Chelsea supporters feared might never score in the Premier League again, confounded doubters yesterday to maintain the push towards the top of the table. He might find goals hard to come by against everyone else, but against Birmingham City he is deadly.”

Sunday Telegraph, Duncan White: “The Peruvian marksman had been dropped to accommodate Anelka but when Shaun Wright-Phillips was forced off with a worrying ankle injury, Pizarro came on to play as a deep-lying striker. He hadn’t scored in the Premier League since the first day of the season when he found the net against the same opposition, but he came up with the goods and Chelsea have now won six on the spin.”

The Observer, Duncan Mackay: “Avram Grant may come across as Leonard Cohen’s less cheerful brother, but he has now fashioned a run of 12 victories in 17 Premier League matches.”

Sunday Times, Brian Doogan: “If Chelsea can maintain their present momentum – this was a fifth victory in six Premier League games – they can surely be a viable threat in the title race when they reintroduce the likes of Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Frank Lampard and John Terry from African Cup of Nations duty and from injury.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “It was not a Chelsea performance that will live long in the memory.”

The goal

79′ Pizarro 0-1

The report

I managed to watch the game live at a local pub. Two screens on one side showing Chelsea, cheered on by lots of local Blues fans, and two screens on the other side showing Reading versus Manchester United, cheered by the local prawn sandwich brigade. Not sure what the channel was but it had a big “3” in the corner and kept flashing up adverts in what looked like Portuguese.

This can only be described as a classic Chelsea 1-0 away win. We controlled the game for 70% with Michael Ballack purring like a Rolls Royce engine in the middle, Florent Malouda and Joe Cole providing the chrome down the wings and Nicolas Anelka that little bit of polished walnut up front. It was a pleasant drive out in the country, nice and relaxed, when suddenly I spotted in the rear view mirror that the boot had sprung open. It was the third time in a month that the lock at the back had been unreliable as Petr Cech managed to hoof his clearance directly onto the head of Cameron Jerome for it to be headed back onto our post. If Cech continues to have calamities at this increasing rate by the time he’s David James’ age he might well be the next David James!

For the other 30% Birmingham had their moments and in our best tradition we managed to keep our fans waiting and wondering whether we’d ever score and keep pace with the top two who were both winning their games.

Early in the first half Shaun Wright-Phillips had to go off with a twisted ankle and on came Claudio Pizarro. I know there are a few of you defending him on this blog but trust me, he wasn’t greeted with much joy in the pub, and was jeered and abused for each mistake. In the second half Pizarro managed to get booked for a simulated dive. Never have I seen such a heavy body inexplicably lose power then belly flop just inside the area when only a few yards from the target – well not since flight BA038 from Beijing last week.

Not much later Anelka was neatly put clear in the box with only the goalie to beat but he managed to fluff his shot and hit the keeper. This was all too confusing because I thought we had Pizarro and Andriy Shevchenko in the squad to perform this task?

Then we won a corner. The bloke next to me said “we never score from corners…” but he should have qualified this statement by saying “we never score from corners taken by our specialist corner takers”. Just as we were all getting edgy and a little desperate a great Juliano Belletti corner was magnificently headed in by Pizarro. All those in the pub who had jeered Pizarro looked embarrassed and ashamed and celebrated by spontaneously jumping up, throwing glasses of Fosters onto the ceiling to drip down on us for the remainder of the match.

The good

  1. Birmingham drew at Arsenal last week and they seem to be more motivated under Alex McLeish so this was never going to be a walkover therefore it’s an impressive win. Winning is becoming a habit.

The bad

  1. Wright-Phillips’ injury – just as he was getting going.
  2. Cech – is he starting his mid-life crisis?

Man of the Match

Joe Cole – little bit of show-boating but created space and initiated some good moves.

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