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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 December 2005, 14:51 GMT
Chelsea 2-0 Birmingham
Hernan Crespo scores Chelsea's opener
First-half goals from Hernan Crespo and Arjen Robben gave Chelsea a routine win over Birmingham at Stamford Bridge.

Steve Bruce's side had the two best early chances with Stephen Clemence having a shot cleared off the line and Emile Heskey sending a header over.

But Chelsea dominated from the moment Crespo tapped in from close range after a sweeping team move and the Argentine striker could easily have scored five.

Robben made it 2-0 with a neat low finish after another flowing move.

The visitors happily surrendered possession in the opening exchanges and Chelsea were restricted to a succession of corners and a long-range shot from Michael Essien.

Birmingham, buoyed by their midweek draw with Manchester United, were growing in confidence and had the best two chances of the first 20 minutes.

Jermaine Pennant's free-kick found Clemence completely unmarked on the far post and his shot squirmed under Petr Cech but was cleared off the line by William Gallas.

Moments later Heskey got on the end of Nicky Butt's inviting centre but saw his looping header drift just over the top with Cech beaten.

The visitors may have looked sharp in attack but they were beginning to look shaky in defence.

They were not helped by the loss of the influential Matthew Upson who had to be taken off within a quarter of an hour after an accidental clash with John Terry.

With Robben and Joe Cole starting to find time and space, the champions got on top and swept into the lead on 25 minutes with the best move of the game.

Robben cut in from the right flank, exchanged passes with Crespo and Cole and although his shot was brilliantly saved by Maik Taylor, Crespo turned in the rebound from two yards.

Birmingham crumbled and Crespo, preferred to Didier Drogba in attack, could and should have added three more goals within 10 minutes.

First he failed to get a shot away after Cole had waited too long to pass.

Then the Argentine striker was put through only to see his fierce half-volley brilliantly saved by Taylor.

And moments later Crespo saw a header clip the top of the bar following a fine left-wing cross from Gallas.

Frank Lampard, Hernan Crespo and Arjen Robben celebrate Chelsea's second goal
Frank Lampard and Hernan Crespo congratulate Arjen Robben

Chelsea finally made their dominance count just before the break when Cole, Crespo and Eidur Gudjohnsen combined well in midfield.

They eventually worked the ball to Robben on the left and the Dutch winger placed his left-foot shot across Taylor and into the far corner.

Crespo's quest for a second goal continued after the break. Three times he had a sight of goal but could not find a way past the impressive Taylor.

Gudjohnsen also had a powerful shot blocked by the Northern Ireland keeper while Terry had a header cleared off the line.

Birmingham were piling forward and leaving huge gaps at the back but still had their moments.

Their best chance of the half saw Damien Johnson's excellent downward header blocked on the line by Gudjohnsen.

  • Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho:
    "We had the chances and you have to kill the game. I was angry at half-time because 2-0 is a scoreline where you never know what might happen.

    "We had chances to kill the game in the first half and that would have enabled us to think more about the next game. If it had been 3-0 at half-time I would maybe have taken off Michael Essien and Arjen Robben to give them more of a rest.

    "We didn't start well - we started slow. We got the pace of the game in the end and scored two goals. We should have scored more. The result is acceptable."

  • Birmingham boss Steve Bruce:
    "To give yourself any chance here you have to take your chances but we didn't. Once they scored and then got a second it was very difficult for us.

    "Losing Matthew Upson, who I think will be missing for at least a month with a badly twisted ankle, summed us up.

    "Matthew has been a very good player for us but he is now the eighth one to get injured. We were without seven before we started and that's been our season so far. We hope we can get some of them fit."

    Chelsea: Cech, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, Terry, Gallas, Essien (Makelele 76), Joe Cole, Gudjohnsen, Lampard, Robben (Wright-Phillips 60), Crespo (Drogba 70).
    Subs Not Used: Johnson, Cudicini.

    Booked: Essien.

    Goals: Crespo 25, Robben 43.

    Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Cunningham, Martin Taylor, Upson (Tebily 12), Gray, Johnson, Butt, Clemence (Kilkenny 60), Pennant, Heskey (Birley 65), Pandiani.
    Subs Not Used: Vaesen, Painter.

    Att: 40,652

    Ref: M Dean (Wirral).

    Interview: Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho

    Interview: Birmingham boss Steve Bruce

    Interview: Chelsea striker Hernan Crespo


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