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Barclays Premier League

Stamford Bridge (ATT 41,590) 12th August 2007 - Kick off 13:30 Ref: S Bennett

Chelsea Chelsea vs Birmingham City Birm'ham

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Blues set new record

Essien sees off brave Blues

By Peter O'Rourke.   Last Updated: 12/08/07 5:21pm

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Pizarro: Celebrates first goal

Pizarro: Celebrates first goal

Chelsea survived a scare before seeing off new boys Birmingham 3-2 in a topsy-turvy encounter at Stamford Bridge to set a new record of unbeaten home league games.

Michael Essien's second half goal proved to be enough to see off Steve Bruce's brave battlers and ensured Chelsea made it 64 games unbeaten at home in the Premier League.

Former Chelsea striker Mikael Forssell had come back to haunt his old side by heading Birmingham in front early on before Claudio Pizarro and Florent Malouda fired the home side in front with goals on their home debuts.

Birmingham went into the break level following Olivier Kapo's stunning goal, but Essien grabbed the crucial winner five minutes into the second half with a fine finish.

Birmingham's opener came from Forssell, although there was barely a celebration against the club that gave him a chance to shine in the Premier

League. Gary McSheffrey whipped in a free-kick which Liam Ridgewell, skipper for the day in Damien Johnson's absence, flicked on. There was no time for Forssell to react but his instinctive header wrong-footed Petr Cech.

Shaun Wright-Phillips created Chelsea's equaliser when he picked up Malouda's pass and cut the ball back for Pizarro who saw his shot squirm under Colin Doyle.

Chelsea edged ahead on the half-hour mark. Frank Lampard was fed on the edge of the area, with his flick finding Salomon Kalou who scooped the ball through for Malouda to sidefoot home.

Kalou then raced through and squared for Lampard to sidefoot past Doyle, only for the visitors to desperately clear off the line.

However, Chelsea were stunned in the 36th minute when Kapo drifted in from the left, bundled his way past Glen Johnson and unleashed an unstoppable drive into the top corner with his left foot.

The entertainment did not stop after the break, Wright-Phillips driving fiercely into the side-netting, fooling half of the Stamford Bridge crowd into thinking Chelsea had taken the lead again.

Winner
But they were ahead in the 50th minute, with Wright-Phillips finding Essien on the edge of the area and the Ghana midfielder finding the top corner, although Doyle got a hand to the curling effort and again perhaps might have done better.

Didier Drogba made a welcome return from injury and he was given the last 27 minutes to make an impression after missing the Community Shield through injury.

Chelsea could have gone further ahead when Kalou had an effort saved at point-blank range by Doyle and Drogba almost caught Doyle off his line with a volley from the halfway line but the ambitious effort drifted wide.

Birmingham threw everything into attack in the closing stages, but Chelsea held on to get their title challenge off to the perfect start.

ChelseaTeam StatisticsBirmingham City
3Goals2
21st Half Goals2
8Shots on Target4
12Shots off Target3
4Blocked Shots2
5Corners3
9Fouls13
4Offsides0
2Yellow Cards1
0Red Cards0
84.2Passing Success75.3
30Tackles37
60Tackles Success75.7
58.5Possession41.5
47.1Territorial Advantage52.9

Matches

Table

Barclays Premier League

Barclays Premier League
Pos Team P Pts
1 Chelsea 32 76
2 Arsenal 32 66
3 Manchester United 33 65
4 Manchester City 33 64
5 Liverpool 32 57
6 Tottenham Hotspur 33 57
7 Southampton 33 56
8 Swansea City 33 47
9 Stoke City 33 46
10 West Ham United 33 43
11 Crystal Palace 33 42
12 Everton 33 41
13 West Bromwich Albion 33 36
14 Newcastle United 33 35
15 Aston Villa 33 32
16 Sunderland 32 29
17 Hull City 32 28
18 Leicester City 32 28
19 Queens Park Rangers 33 26
20 Burnley 33 26

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