Brave Blues Frustrate Chelsea (Sky Sports)
Birmingham City 0 Chelsea 0
The door has been left ajar for Manchester United after Chelsea were held to a 0-0 draw at Birmingham.
Steve Bruce's Birmingham are scrapping for their lives at the foot of the table and they produced a display brimming with passion as they dug in to thwart Chelsea.
Chelsea dominated the game after the break, but found Birmingham's defence organised and effective, while they were lacklustre in the opening 45 minutes and could have been on the end of a beating had Emile Heskey brought his shooting boots to St Andrews.
Chelsea are ten points clear with six games to play and are long odds-on to lift the title, but pressure does strange things and they still have to face their closest rivals before the season draws to a close.
Oliver Tebily earned a recall to the side and he seemed to have a point to prove as he was in the thick of the action in the opening 10 minutes.
A rampaging run down the right created a chance for Emile Heskey, but the powerful forward fired wastefully over the bar.
Tebily took the shooting responsibilities on himself on the quarter hour and forced Petr Cech into an acrobatic save from 25 yards, while Heskey wastefully headed wide, a comment Blues fans have heard too often this term, from a Jermaine Pennant free kick in between the two openings.
Chelsea are looking to claim a second successive title, but they were slow to find their feet at St Andrews.
Arjen Robben frustrated team-mate Damien Duff when not setting him free following a typically mazy run, but he came close to atoning just past the quarter-hour mark.
Birmingham went to sleep at a free kick and Drogba slid in the flying Dutchman inside the box. Robben steadied himself and attempted to thread the ball in between Maik Taylor and his near post, but the Blues keeper was alert and parried the effort to safety.
The continuing injury crisis at St Andrews handed Matthew Sadler a chance to shine and he did not look out of place in the opening skirmishes. In fact, he came close to creating the opening goal with a beautifully-flighted cross from the left but, not for the first time, Heskey's touch deserted him and, off balance, he fired high over Cech's crossbar.
Tebily's effervescent running was good to watch in the first half and he whipped in yet another dangerous cross on 35 minutes, but none of the home players appeared to want to take responsibility in the box and the chance was frittered away.
Birmingham's good work of the first half was almost undone a minute after the break as some sloppy play allowed Asier Del Horno to find Didier Drogba in the box, the Ivorian produced a fine volley but Taylor was able to dive to his left and clasp the effort.
It appeared that Jose Mourinho gave his players a dressing down at the break as they came out with all guns blazing and Del Horno had a goal ruled out for offside, with team-mate Ricardo Carvalho the culprit rather than the Spanish full back. Drogba then fluffed his lines from six yards and Frank Lampard fired over from the edge of the box as the visitors threatened to take control of the contest.
The assistant's flag denied Chelsea for a second time on 57 minutes, as Duff had strayed marginally beyond the last defender in collecting Eidur Gudjohnsen's pass and his celebrations were cut short.
Blues were finding it increasingly difficult to gain a foothold in the game and an awful pass from Kenny Cunningham found only Duff, but he pulled his shot well wide of goal - as Drogba looked on in frustration from an unmarked position.
Birmingham were rarely seen as an attacking force in the second half, with the focus on keeping Chelsea at bay, but Pennant and Heskey failed to pick out team-mates in the box to present possession back to Chelsea.
Chelsea were never at their best, but their three best chances came in the last minute. Substitute Hernan Crespo shot straight at Taylor and volleyed over seconds later, while Carvalho headed wide when unmarked from six yards and they will have to be far sharper in the remaining six games if they are to keep Manchester United at bay.
|Birmingham City||Team Statistics||Chelsea|
|1||Shots on Target||3|
|3||Shots off Target||8|
Maik Taylor, Cunningham, Sadler, Martin Taylor,
Tebily, Butt (Kikenny 88), Clemence, Johnson, Pennant, Campbell (Forssell 57),
Subs Not Used Vaesen, Latka, Lazaridis
Cech, Del Horno (Crespo 64), Ferreira, Carvalho,
Terry, Duff (J. Cole 64), Lampard, Makelele, Drogba, Gudjohnsen (Essien 68),
Subs Not Used Cudicini, Huth