Chelsea Overcome Battling Birmingham  (Sky Sports)

Birmingham City 1 Chelsea 3

Gianfranco Zola
Zola: superb goal
Birmingham  1-3  Chelsea
Savage (pen) 87    Zola 44
Gudjohnsen 49
Hasselbaink (pen) 69 
Barclaycard Premiership, February 8


Chelsea earned a comfortable three points at St Andrews in the end, but were pushed hard in the opening spell by a battling Birmingham side.

Gianfranco Zola, Eidur Gudjohnson and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink put the Londoners in command before Robbie Savage netted in the dying moments for the hosts.

Birmingham started the match well and had the bulk of possession in the early stages without creating any chances. Chelsea who had the first attempt at goal when Graeme Le Saux collected Gudjohnsen's knock down, but his 25-yard drive was comfortably saved by Nico Vaesen.

The home side hit back when Stan Lazaridis pulled away from Mario Melchiot and rifled a drive from 10 yards which Carlo Cudicini brilliantly saved at his near post.

The Italian keeper had to be sharp at his other post a few minutes later when Lazaridis tested him with a low free-kick.

Stephen Clemence then tested Cudicini from 25-yards, but the Chelsea keeper was right behind it. He produced his best save on the half-hour mark though when Jamie Clapham turned inside from the left and crashed a tremendous shot towards the top corner that Cudicini touched over the bar.

With half-time approaching Jesper Gronkjaer made progress down the right flank and picked out Frank Lampard at the near post but as the midfielder was about to pull the trigger Matthew Upson came in with a superb tackle.

Sixty seconds later the visitors were in front when Emmanuel Petit chipped the ball to Gudjohnsen and he nodded the ball into the path of Zola who perfectly executed with a half-volley from 13-yards.

Birmingham were clearly stung by losing the goal against the run of play, and found themselves in further trouble just four minutes after the break.

Once again Gronkjaer, who had sprung to life just before the interval, delivered a cross and Gudjohnsen rose to power it beyond Vaesen.

Gudjohnsen could have netted again when the ball broke to him six-yards out after good work by Hasselbaink, who came on for the injured Zola, but Vaesen blocked the effort.

Birmingham substitute Piotr Swierczewski tried his luck with a swerving 30-yard shot, but the ball flew past the right side post.

Chelsea wrapped up the points when Kenny Cunningham fouled Hasselbaink in the penalty box and the big striker picked himself up and drilled the spot-kick into the middle of the net with Vaesen diving to his right.

Birmingham continued to battle and were rewarded in the dying moments when Petit pulled Clinton Morrison's shirt in the box. Robbie Savage put the penalty in off the right side post with Cudicini inches away from it.

Man-Of-The-Match: Eidgur Gudjohnsen (Chelsea)
A close run thing with keeper Carlo Cudicini and Gudjohnsen. However, the striker was at the heart of everything the Blues created and his contribution to the win was that little bit extra.

Birmingham: Vaesen, Kenna (Swierczewski 52), Cunningham, Upson, Clapham, Damien Johnson, Clemence, Savage, Lazaridis, Dugarry (Devlin 78), Horsfield (Morrison 65).
Subs Not Used: Bennett, John.
Booked: Damien Johnson.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot, Terry, Desailly, Gallas, Gronkjaer (De Lucas 74), Lampard (Morris 62), Petit, Le Saux, Zola (Hasselbaink 45), Gudjohnsen.
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Cole.
Booked: Desailly, Terry, Petit, De Lucas.

Att: 29,475
Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire).

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