With rumours of Chelsea players challenging manager Andre Villas-Boas and speculation that some of the old guard are still in touch with former manager Jose Mourinho, AVB should have used today’s game to stamp his authority and show what his team are capable of. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and Chelsea looked hopeless - especially in the first half – and they were perhaps lucky to even draw.
In the first 45 minutes the home side passed the ball sloppily, made few chances going forward and looked dangerously unsteady in defence. Birmingham took advantage of this in the 20th minute when they won a corner. Chelsea dithered in defence and failed to clear the ball, which dropped to the unmarked Murphy, who smashed it in the back on the net. Minutes later Chelsea had a chance to equalise when Ramires was brought down in the Birmingham box. With regular penalty taker Lampard on the bench it came to Mata to convert from the spot. However, his low shot was saved by keeper Colin Doyle.
For the rest of the first-half Chelsea never looked like scoring. They held most of the possession but couldn’t break through Birmingham, who always seemed to have 10 men in defence. Torres may as well have been invisible on the pitch as he barely made an impact. However this also could have been because he received no service from his teammates who crossed and passed the ball with no sense of control or skill.
At the halftime whistle the away fans were singing “You’re getting sacked in the morning” in AVB’s direction and he home fans were chanting for their old hero Jose Mourinho.
In the second-half Torres was replaced by Drogba, who had just returned from the African Nations. The big Ivorian made driving runs and created chances, finally injecting life into the Chelsea side. Andre Villas-Boas made a further attacking substitution when he brought on Salmon Kalou for Mikel, effectively playing with four strikers.
The attacking approach eventually paid off. In the 61st minute Ivanovic crossed the ball from the right and found Daniel Sturridge who headed powerfully into the back of the net.
For the rest of the game Chelsea continued to attack but never look dangerous. Villas-Boas looked increasingly anxious and ineffective as he stood by the touchline. The ineffectiveness was perhaps most viable when he brought Lampard in the 82nd minute. The midfielder barely paid any notice to his manager’s instructions, fuelling speculation of a rift between the two.
The visitors could have snatched a victory late in the game. Birmingham striker Redmond broke costless from the Chelsea defence and was one on one with Petr Cech. However the 17-year-old’s shot was tame and easily saved. If it had gone in it may have meant the end for AVB’s brief Chelsea reign. As it stands, the Londoner’s now face a tough trip to St Andrews for a replay.