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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Chelsea stumble to FA Cup draw against Birmingham

London: Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas came under even greater pressure on Saturday after a 1-1 draw against Birmingham in the fifth round of the FA Cup left the Premier League club facing an unwanted replay.

Villas-Boas acknowledged this week that he had lost the support of some players after the west London club slipped to fifth in the Premier League, and his team was jeered at Stamford Bridge after they needed a 62nd-minute equalizer from Daniel Sturridge to avoid a humiliating defeat against the second-tier club.

"It was a quite poor result, of course," Villas-Boas said. "1-1 is not what we were expecting, but it gives us another chance at Birmingham to continue trying to win the trophy."

"The aggression was there and the desire and ambition, but I think Birmingham matched us today in that sense."

The game started sluggishly as Chelsea struggled to penetrate Birmingham's five-man midfield. The second-tier side then lost captain Stephen Carr to a 12th-minute injury, but took the lead eight minutes later when David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic failed to clear a corner kick, giving David Murphy the chance to smash the ball into the net from close range.

It was only the fourth goal Chelsea conceded in 12 FA Cup matches - a streak that includes the 2009 and '10 titles.

Chelsea missed the chance to level the scores when Birmingham goalkeeper Colin Doyle saved Juan Mata's 22nd-minute penalty, awarded when Wade Elliott fouled Ramires, and the team was jeered off at the interval.

Villas-Boas' side had looked to dominate in their search for an equaliser. David Luiz set off on a skilful run and was illegally halted by Jordon Mutch, who was booked, the former Benfica defender then picked himself up before hitting a dipping free-kick from 30 yards that needed tipping over by Doyle.

The home side continued to put pressure on their opponents, Sturridge latched onto a Fernando Torres knock-down and fired over, before John Obi Mikel dispatched a long-range volley just wide.

A tame Mata header was the last of Chelsea’s first-half chances, and they went in for the break behind as much of Stamford Bridge made their displeasure known.

There were some cheers when Villas-Boas replaced the struggling Torres with Didier Drogba at half-time and even more when Sturridge headed in Ivanovic's cross, but the jeers returned when the coach hauled off Mata to bring on Frank Lampard late on.

The Blues were now playing with improved confidence and beginning to dominate, but Raul Meireles hit a deflected effort just over following a corner.

Ivanovic tumbled in the Birmingham area but no penalty was awarded, before Nathan Redmond spurned a good chance at Petr Cech's goal, choosing to shoot with his right-foot despite an unfavourable angle.

Lampard hit a free-kick into the wall but Chelsea were unable to find a winner, and will now go into their Champions League tie at Napoli in mid-week under severe pressure after another disappointing result.

Also on Saturday, second-tier Leicester eliminated Norwich with a 2-1 win at the Premier League club's ground, Everton beat Blackpool 2-0 and Bolton won 2-0 at Millwall.


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