It is not every day that we get to beat Birmingham City. Not because they are anything to write home about, but simply because our paths do not cross very often. Part of the reason for this is that they had Trevor Francis as a manager for so many years. The other part is that they have been crap for even longer. Well, they have dealt with the first problem, but it would appear that the second will be with them for some time to come.
If my fading memory serves me correctly, we last met in league competition in 1989 when we beat them 3-1 at the Bridge. Graham Roberts scored that day and if he had turned up today he would doubtless have performed the same trick. Although Steve Bruce’s side play well as a team, although they close people down quickly and although they appear to have some pace up front, they are surely heading back from whence they came. Let us just hope and pray that they take Lily Savage with them.
To me, it was a strange game, as we turned in an average first half performance yet knocked in three goals, while in the second half we managed at times to rip them to pieces but could not add to the goal difference. In fairness to Birmingham they did manage to hold out until the third minute when Eidur raced on to a peach of a ball from man-of-the-match Jody Morris to shoot across the hapless ’keeper into the far corner of the net.
After that, and up until we added the second, City had lots of possession and threatened our goal on a number of occasions. Had they scored an equaliser, who knows what might have happened? But they did not and just after the half hour it was two. It was almost a carbon copy of the first, with Zola this time providing the pass for Eidur to beat the ’keeper in exactly the same place as before. Three minutes before the break and it was game over when Zola nicked the ball and blasted in via the crossbar.
It is difficult to understand how there were no further goals in the second period. Petit probably came the closest when he smashed the ball against the bar, although Baba also came close with an effort that was just pushed wide of the goal by their ’keeper. Zola, Eidur, Soxy (on several occasions) and others all had chances to finish the game in some style, but it was not to be.
Since the defeat against West Ham we have conceded just one goal in five league games, and it is maybe this fact that is suddenly giving us both results and confidence. For the first time in a while, there is nothing good to say about Carlo — not because he messed anything up, but simply because he had nothing (or very little) to do.
Jody Morris was the star turn for me. He was involved in virtually everything when we pushed forward, was there when we needed him further back and got stuck in as and when needed. If this is what staying out of jail does for him, then maybe he should be in the dock every week.
One little moan, or maybe it is simply a question that someone could answer, why did Ranieri switch Soxy (who incidentally had a great game) to the right wing? There are not many players who are truly two footed, but Soxy has difficulty even standing on his right leg. He did not let us down there, but could not get round the back when breaking forward as he kept needing to cut back inside to get it on to his right (well, left) foot.
So week one of the easy(ish) spell gone, maximum points returned. A victory against the smog monsters next week is crucial if we are to continue to challenge for one of the Champions League places. It is getting rather congested after the front two, with us, Everton, ManUre, Blackburn and the smog monsters separated by no more than three points. Today felt good, tonight I feel great. If only we could play City every week, the title would be decided already.
Chelsea line-up: Cudicini — Babayaro, Gallas, Desailly (Terry, 77), Melchiot — Le Saux (Gronkjaer, 74), Petit, Lampard, Morris — Gudjohnsen (Cole, 71), Zola
Unused subs: Pidgeley, de Lucas