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Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 23:00 GMT
Chelsea outclass Birmingham
Chelsea's Eidur Gudjohnsen scores in the win over Birmingham
Gudjohnsen claimed his ninth goal of the season
Birmingham 1-3 Chelsea

Some high-quality Chelsea finishing proved too much for Birmingham as Claudio Ranieri's side kept up their chase for a Champions League place.

Gianfranco Zola volleyed Chelsea ahead a minute before half-time and soon after the re-start Eidur Gudjohnsen headed home to send Chelsea above Newcastle on goal difference.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink added a third from the penalty spot after he had been fouled by Robbie Savage.

Carlo Cudicini helps everyone stay calm and assured

Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri
Birmingham claimed a late consolation goal - from a Savage penalty - after Marcel Desailly had fouled Clinton Morrison.

Birmingham - inspired by Christophe Dugarry - had dominated proceedings before Zola's goal, but Steve Bruce's side were unable to respond to those two sucker punches.

The defeat means Birmingham have not won a Premiership match at home for more than three months and continue their flirtation with relegation.

Chelsea had been the first side to settle and in the first three minutes Kenny Cunningham twice had to head away crosses from Jesper Gronkjaer.

Then Graeme Le Saux fired in a 20-yard volley that tested Nico Vaesen.

Birmingham's Stan Lazaridis fires in a shot
Lazaridis tested Carlo Cudicini on several occasions

Stan Lazaridis instigated the Birmingham retort with a powerful effort that Carlo Cudicini did well to save.

Lazaridis also almost caught Cudicini out with a free-kick which the Italian was forced to tip around his near post

Dugarry also proved a handful for the Chelsea defence, in particular for Marcel Desailly, who picked up a yellow card for bringing down his fellow countryman.

Cudicini had to come to Chelsea's rescue again, producing a superb finger-tip save to thwart Jamie Clapham.

Zola had been left limping by a Damien Johnson tackle but a minute before half time the Chelsea forward was still fit enough to volley home from 15 yards out.

Hasselbaink replaced Zola and was soon watching in admiration as Chelsea extended their lead.

If we maintain the spirit of the first half and get a bit of luck then I am confident that things can come right

Birmingham boss Steve Bruce

Dugarry lost the ball deep in his own half to Frank Lampard before it found its way out to Gronkjaer on the right flank.

He floated in an inviting cross and Gudjohnsen was first to react as he sent a powerful header past Vaesen.

After 67 minutes Hasselbaink made it 3-0 from the penalty spot after being brought down by Robbie Savage.

The Birmingham midfielder pulled a goal back three minutes from time after his penalty went in off the post.

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.

Attendance: 29,475

Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).

BBC Five Live's Pat Murphy
"Chelsea's lead bordered on grand larceny"
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