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Saturday, 9 November, 2002, 16:51 GMT
Chelsea crush Birmingham
Eidur Gudjohnsen (second left) was under pressure to score
Gudjohnsen is congratulated by team-mates
Chelsea 3-0 Birmingham

Chelsea striker Eidur Gudjohnsen answered his critics with two goals which sent Birmingham to defeat at Stamford Bridge.

Gudjohnsen's selection ahead of youngster Carlton Cole raised some eyebrows but the Iceland international's first-half brace emphatically justified his place.

  Key incidents
2 mins: Gudjohnsen's goal gives Chelsea the ideal start
31: Gudjohnsen adds a second
42: Zola puts Chelsea three up

Gianfranco Zola added a third before the interval as Chelsea produced some of their best football of the season.

Gudjohnsen's only top-flight goals prior to the had come when he netted twice against Newcastle in early September.

But he responded in the perfect way to the pressure being put on his place by Cole, who scored both goals in Chelsea's midweek Worthington Cup win against Gillingham.

Zola's our genius - he's fantastic and irreplaceable at the moment
Claudio Ranieri,
Chelsea boss
Cole had to make do with a place on the bench, and it proved the right decision by manager Claudio Ranieri with Gudjohnsen scoring after just two minutes.

He ran on to Jody Morris's lob and drilled an angled shot into the corner of Birmingham keeper Nico Vaesen's goal.

The effort forced Birmingham into a change of formation with striker Clinton Morrison moving up front after he had started in a containing five-man midfield.

The move briefly paid dividends when Paul Devlin stole in from the right of midfield for the visitors only to shoot just wide of the post.

Frank Lampard leaves Birmingham defender Kenny Cunningham in his wake
Lampard was excellent in midfield

A powerful 25-yard Stern John shot went narrowly over and that was as good as it got for manager Steve Bruce's team, who were overrun throughout the match.

Gudjohnsen added his second when he was played in by Zola before finishing with precision and power.

Zola, who sent a volley wide and forced Vaesen into an excellent save, finally got on the scoresheet when he shot in off the post.

The number of times they got in between our full-back and centre-back in the first half was scary
Steve Bruce,
Birmingham boss
Chelsea have been criticised in the past for faltering against the Premiership's lesser lights but they comfortably swept aside Birmingham.

Gudjohnsen should have had the first hat-trick of his career shortly after the interval but sent his toe-poke wide.

Defender William Gallas had a goal disallowed and midfielder Emmanuel Petit hit the crossbar with a volley.

Mario Melchiot should have headed in a fourth for the home side late as an impressive Chelsea side wasted several chances to add to their lead.

Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot, Gallas, Desailly (Terry 76), Babayaro, Morris, Petit, Lampard, Le Saux (Gronkjaer 74), Gudjohnsen (Cole 71), Zola.
Subs Not Used: Pidgeley, De Lucas.

Booked: Desailly.

Birmingham: Vaesen, Kenna, Purse, Cunningham, Powell (Lazaridis 43), Devlin, Savage, Cisse, Tebily, Morrison (Horsfield 63), John (Hughes 73).
Subs Not Used: Bennett, Kirovski.

Booked: Powell.

Attendance: 35,237

Referee: D Pugh (Merseyside).

BBC Sport's Nigel Adderley
"Zola exhausted all superlatives"
Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri
"The players wanted to win"
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