Blues set new record
Essien sees off brave Blues
By Peter O'Rourke. Last Updated: 12/08/07 5:21pm
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.
WinnerBut 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.
|Chelsea||Team Statistics||Birmingham City|
|2||1st Half Goals||2|
|8||Shots on Target||4|
|12||Shots off Target||3|
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Ham United||26||39|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||26||27|
|17||Queens Park Rangers||26||22|