Chelsea 3 – 2 Birmingham City

Match reports

The Times, Russell Kempson: “It was not quite thrill-a-minute – Mourinho could never be accused of throwing caution completely to the wind – and Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, was pictured gloomily resting his chin in his hands near the end. Yet if this is the way forward for Chelsea, with Mourinho’s midfield diamond abandoned in favour of marauding wingers and will-o’-the-wisp forwards, the chase for the Barclays Premier League title could take on a more vibrant tone this season. A less predictable Chelsea could prove an exceptionally dangerous Chelsea.”

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “With two wingers and a pair of strikers the side made space for itself at the price of allowing scope for the visitors. While the victory was deserved, Birmingham must have left London wondering what might have been had their goalkeeper Colin Doyle not been culpable when Claudio Pizarro and then Michael Essien scored.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “Mourinho spent the summer promising daring raids from the wing and football on the break; against Birmingham City, he traded five goals and a few defensive errors with newcomers from the Championship. This was not Mourinho football as we know it but, for an unusually noisy Stamford Bridge, it was a welcome change from the occasionally charmless progress of the big blue machine.”

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Chelsea yesterday re-wrote the record books, and filled more than a few scrap-books with images and reports of scintillating football. How fitting that in a thrilling game that was a throwback to a more expressive era, Chelsea set a new league record of 64 games unbeaten, breaking the mark set between 1978 and 1981 by those fine Liverpool sides containing Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Alan Hansen.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “When the final whistle came, it was met with a mighty cheer as Liverpool’s name was erased from the record books.”

The highlights

Click here for extended high quality video highlights from Virgin Media.

The good

  1. Three points. It was vital to get off to a winning start, our seventh opening day victory in the last eight seasons. With Manchester United dropping two points at home to Reading (United weren’t very good. And you can thank me for jinxing Wayne Rooney; I included him in this week’s Fantasy Football team ahead of Didier Drogba) the first “Super Sunday” of the new Premier League campaign couldn’t have gone any better.
  2. The performance. The scoreline doesn’t give a true reflection of our dominance. From the kick-off we were brilliant, playing the type of free-flowing football many fans (and Roman Abramovich) want to see, and only two moments of defensive frailty allowed Birmingham to score. Five goals. Players in great form. Flying wingers. First class entertainment. An uproarious atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge. What more could you ask for?
  3. Unbeaten home record. We set a new Premier League record of 64 home games unbeaten, bettering Liverpool’s 26-year record set between 1978 and 1981. A fine achievement that’s unlikely to be surpassed for some considerable time. And it’s all down to Jose Mourinho, who last experienced defeat at home in 2002 when his Porto side lost to Beira Mar.
  4. The midfield. Shaun Wright-Phillips, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, and Florent Malouda. The 4-4-2 with wingers proved perfect against a narrow Birmingham side. Lampard had a really good game as did Essien, who scored another 20-yarder before he suffered a knee injury and was substituted with 21 minutes remaining. Mourinho is waiting for news on the severity of Essien’s injury, but it’s unlikely he’ll be fit in time for Wednesday’s game against Reading.
  5. Florent Malouda and Claudio Pizarro. Both scored on their Premier League debuts. It was important for Pizarro to get that first goal out of the way. The Birmingham goalkeeper Colin Doyle should really have kept it out; he got two hands on the ball but still failed to prevent it hitting the back of the net. Hopefully the first of many for the Peruvian. Malouda’s goal was brilliant. He started the move, got on the end of a clever Salomon Kalou pass, and finished confidently. Arjen who?
  6. Shaun Wright-Phillips. His time has come. Finished last season really well and continued in great form throughout pre-season. He was wonderful in this game. Didn’t have much of a defence to run at and had lots of space to run into, but he made full use of both and was my man of the match.
  7. Mikael Forssell. Graciously refused to celebrate his goal. Always good to see and much appreciated by the fans. Forssell’s early career was blighted by injury and he never really got the chance to prove himself at the Bridge. Let’s hope he goes from strength to strength now that he’s injury-free.

The bad

  1. Conceding two goals. While it made the game that bit more exciting, letting in two goals at home is not something most of us want to see that often. The good news is that John Terry is expected to return from a knee injury ahead of schedule, and new signing Alex trained with the rest of the squad at Cobham today.
  2. Glen Johnson’s defensive cock-up. Johnson was good going forward but was entirely responsible for Birmingham’s second goal. He rarely goes 90 minutes without making a howler and on such mistakes are titles lost. With Paulo Ferreira returning to training today and Mourinho still hopeful of signing Seville’s Daniel Alves, Johnson better improve or he’ll find his Chelsea career coming to a premature end.

Man of the Match

Shaun Wright-Phillips.

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