Chelsea wins 3-1 to stay in title contention
Florent Malouda helped Chelsea remain in the Premier League
title hunt on Wednesday, scoring twice in a 3-1 win over Birmingham
that moved the reigning champions into second place behind
The France winger broke the deadlock at Stamford Bridge after
just three minutes with a far-post finish and rounded off Chelsea’s
scoring in the 62nd with a firm header from eight yards, taking his
season’s tally in the league to 12 goals.
That brace sandwiched a superb individual effort by Salomon
Kalou in the 26th, leaving Carlo Ancelotti’s side six points adrift
of United with five games left. The win allowed Chelsea to leapfrog
Arsenal, which is third on goal difference after a 3-3 draw at
north London rival Tottenham on Wednesday.
Chelsea must still travel to Old Trafford to play United on May
8, while Alex Ferguson’s team also has to visit Arsenal on May
Birmingham’s consolation goal came through Sweden winger
Sebastian Larsson from the penalty spot in the 76th, after David
Luiz tripped substitute Matt Derbyshire. But the defeat shouldn’t
affect Birmingham, which has a five-point cushion above the
Ancelotti stuck to a 4-3-3 formation, keeping the same front
three that began the 3-1 at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday and
starting record signing Fernando Torres on the bench again. The
move paid handsome dividends, with Didier Drogba impressing in the
lone striker’s role and Malouda and Kalou always dangerous just
Torres was introduced in the 67th minute, along with fellow
striker Nicolas Anelka, but the Spain international didn’t have a
chance to end his scoring drought for Chelsea that extended to 728
minutes and 13 games.
Birmingham, which has never won a Premier League game at
Stamford Bridge, was always up against it from the moment Malouda
poked home a finish from five yards (meters) after Drogba flicked
on Paulo Ferreira’s right-wing cross.
The visiting defense looked shaky all match and it was carved
open by Kalou for the second goal. Collecting a pass from Drogba,
the Ivory Coast forward span past Roger Johnson, dummied his way
around Stuart Parnaby and curled a sublime shot into the corner
from outside the penalty area.
Ancelotti threw on Ryan Bertrand in the 56th for his first-team
debut, replacing Ashley Cole, and the 21-year-old left back sent
over a cross six minutes later that Malouda met with a firm
downward header that found the corner.
Derbyshire drew a foul from Luiz, who had been largely
untroubled the preceding 75 minutes, to earn a penalty that Larsson
dispatched clinically high into the net. Craig Gardner had
initially grabbed the ball with the intention of taking the spot
kick but was ousted from the duty by Larsson, much to Gardner’s