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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 August 2007, 14:24 GMT 15:24 UK
Chelsea 3-2 Birmingham
By Paul Fletcher

Claudio Pizarro scored a first-half goal for Chelsea
Pizarro (pictured) and Malouda scored on their league debuts for Chelsea
Chelsea opened their season in record-breaking style by beating Birmingham to set a top-flight record of 64 home games without defeat.

Mikael Forssell converted a Gary McSheffrey cross to put Birmingham ahead but Claudio Pizarro's first-time strike brought Chelsea level.

Salomon Kalou put Florent Malouda through for Chelsea's second goal before Olivier Kapo's brilliant strike.

But Michael Essien scored the winner for Chelsea with a 25-yard strike.

The previous record was held by Liverpool, who went from February 1978 to December 1980 without losing at Anfield.

But Chelsea have been superb at Stamford Bridge since Jose Mourinho took over as manager in June 2004 and they were full value for their win over newly promoted Birmingham.

It was an entertaining match, with Chelsea playing some thrilling football and dominating huge phases of the contest, despite conceding twice in the opening 36 minutes.

606: DEBATE

Birmingham's opening goal - after 15 minutes - came completely against the run of play.

Forssell did not seem to know that much about it after Liam Ridgwell had flicked McSheffrey's cross into his path but he nonetheless managed to guide the ball past Petr Cech.

Chelsea should have already been ahead by that stage - Malouda shooting over when completely unmarked 14 yards from goal - but Mourinho's team equalised two minutes after falling behind.

The impressive Shaun Wright-Phillips accepted a return pass from Malouda before picking out the unmarked Pizarro for a goal on his league debut for Chelsea.

Doyle, in goal for Birmingham, got two hands to the ball and should have done better.

A deft flick through the tightest of gaps by Kalou and a superbly timed run from Malouda culminated in the summer arrival from Lyon slipping the ball past Doyle for Chelsea's second.

And when the ball was played to Frank Lampard in an inviting position, a third goal seemed certain but the midfielder opted for placement over power and Johan Djourou managed to block his shot.

Chelsea found good attacking positions at will, while Birmingham, with three of the back-four making their league debuts, looked increasingly ragged.

But Kapo, the fourth player in the Birmingham team making his top-flight debut for Steve Bruce's side, superbly equalised.

Previously ineffectual, he picked up the ball on the left-hand flank and beat Glen Johnson with ease before drilling his strike across goal.

Chelsea continued to dominate after the break and Essien's thunderous strike across goal from Wright-Phillips' lay-off put the home team back in front five minutes after the restart.

Once again, though, Birmingham keeper Doyle was partially at fault, with his positioning in question.

Chelsea continued to press after scoring, with Essien shooting over and Didier Drogba coming on for Pizarro, who had a fine debut.

Kalou almost scored a fourth for Chelsea with a shot on the turn but Doyle made a good save.

Birmingham rallied towards the end and Ridgewell had a chance from a corner but the ball skimmed off his head.

And the nearest the game came to another goal was a low Steve Sidwell strike that drifted inches wide of the post.


Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho:
"I think it was a good game, not just because Chelsea played well but because Birmingham did as well.

"Teams who have come up from the Championship have a champion mentality.

"We had so many chances to kill off the game. It would have been more enjoyable for me to see if we had been winning 4-2 or 5-2."

Birmingham boss Steve Bruce:
"I think we came here and gave them a game.

"I am disappointed because the goals we gave away were a bit soft but we pushed them hard.

"Not many teams come here and score two goals. We were brave and that's the way we'll have to be.

"We showed that we are capable of making a real fist of playing in the Premier League."


Chelsea: Cech, Johnson, Carvalho, Ben Haim, Ashley Cole, Wright-Phillips, Essien (Mikel 69), Lampard, Malouda (Sidwell 83), Kalou, Pizarro (Drogba 64).
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Joe Cole.

Booked: Essien, Carvalho.

Goals: Pizarro 17, Malouda 31, Essien 50.

Birmingham: Doyle, Kelly, Djourou, Ridgewell, Queudrue (Parnaby 51), Larsson, Muamba, Nafti (De Ridder 75), McSheffrey (Jerome 69), Kapo, Forssell.
Subs Not Used: Maik Taylor, O'Connor.

Booked: Larsson.

Goals: Forssell 15, Kapo 36.

Att: 41,590

Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).



SEE ALSO
Premier League as it happened
12 Aug 07 |  Premier League
Sunday's football photos
12 Aug 07 |  Premier League
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12 Aug 07 |  African


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