Chelsea 1-1 Birmingham: Sunday Mirror match report
Published 14:50 18/02/12 By Paul Smith
The storm clouds continued to gather over Stamford Bridge as Chelsea were forced to come from behind to grab a replay against Birmingham City.
Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas and his team felt the full fury of the home fans who booed off their lacklustre team at the end of another poor game.
And the under-fire Chelsea boss faced fresh controversy when TV station ESPN claimed that Didier Drogba delivered a team-talk in the tunnel at half-time and that Fernando Torres, who made way for the Ivory Coast striker, refused to leave the dressing room for the second half.
A furious Villas-Boas said: “It is ridiculous for the TV station to say Didier was doing a team-talk in the tunnel. I did an interview with them and if I had known they were saying this, I would have refused.” On Torres, he added: “We had to go much more direct in the second half so we brought on Drogba. Torres didn’t take it lightly but he didn’t storm off.”
But significantly, amid all the debate, AVB admitted Chelsea didn’t deserve to win.
He said: “We were not good enough but we take the game to a replay at St Andrew’s.
“In the first half, we created plenty of opportunities but didn’t take them. We were much better after the break but Birmingham matched our desire and aggression.”
Birmingham boss Chris Hughton couldn’t praise his Championship players enough.
“I was delighted with the performance,” he said. “We were very disciplined bearing in mind we had our two first choice strikers out and lost our captain Stephen Carr early in the first half.
“That was as good a performance as I have seen from my side and they deserve all the praise they receive. I’m very proud of the lads and I hope they can keep this momentum going for the rest of the campaign.
“There were times when we had to stick in there but you knew you would face that against a quality side like Chelsea.
“At times, towards the end, Chelsea were playing with four players up front and to hold them off was not easy.”
After just five minutes, Villas-Boas left his seat and observed play from the touchline, a sign that Birmingham were taking the game to Chelsea.
And when Birmingham punished some calamitous defending in the 20th minute to take the lead through David Murphy you suspected this could be another nail in the coffin of Chelsea’s young boss.
Yet, barely a minute after the goal, Chelsea were awarded a penalty when Wade Elliot almost committed GBH on Raul Meireles.
But a stunning save from Colin Doyle, who dived to his right and tipped Juan Mata’s spotkick on to the post, cut short the Chelsea celebrations. There was no room for optimism either as Chelsea rarely threatened, although two shots did go narrowly wide of Doyle’s goal from David Luiz and Daniel Sturridge.
Torres, who started the game, faced further humiliation by being withdrawn at the break and replaced by Drogba.
And it says something about his rapid decline when he’s hauled off against a Championship side after failing to have one shot on goal.
Chelsea finally drew level in the 62nd minute when Branislav Ivanovic sent an inviting right-wing cross into the box and Sturridge rose unchallenged to head home. Relentless home pressure followed as Birmingham defended deep to contain waves of Chelsea attacks.
The only respite came when Jordon Mutch brought a save out of Peter Cech from a 25-yard free-kick.
Eight minutes from time, and in a last-ditch bid to secure victory, Villas-Boas threw on Frank Lampard, but even his introduction came with widespread disapproval as he chose the popular Juan Mata to be withdrawn.