Pizarro sinks brave Blues
Chelsea make it six successive away wins
Last Updated: 19/01/08 5:53pm
Pizarro celebrates his winner
Claudio Pizarro's late goal earned Chelsea a hard-fought 1-0 win over battling Birmingham at St Andrews.
Chelsea were far from their best but did just enough to take the points and keep pace with the top two.
Substitute Pizarro grabbed the priceless winner 11 minutes from time when he headed home Belletti's corner.
The goal was only Pizarro's second of the season with both coming against Birmingham.
Chelsea winger Shaun Wright-Phillips needed early treatment after landing awkwardly on an ankle following an aerial challenge with Damien Johnson and he eventually was replaced by Pizarro.
The visitors enjoyed the bulk of the possession for the majority of the opening 45 minutes with Michael Ballack and Florent Malouda impressive.
Ballack was over-ambitious in going for goal from fully 40 yards out after Sebastian Larsson fouled Ashley Cole and the ball dribbled through to home goalkeeper Maik Taylor.
City were on the back foot for the majority of the time and full-back Stephen Kelly got an important touch on a fiercely driven free-kick by Ballack across the face of goal.
Cameron Jerome could have put Birmingham ahead after 38 minutes after a blunder by Petr Cech.
The Chelsea keeper made a mess of his clearance which flew at pace towards Jerome and his instinctive header from 18 yards out hit the outside of the post.
Birmingham started to build up some momentum towards the interval and Jerome was twice more denied by blocks in front of goal from Cole and Alex.
Chelsea seemed rattled and unsettled by the aggressive approach of Alex McLeish's side, who left the pitch at half-time to a standing ovation.
Nicolas Anelka gave a glimpse of his class when dummying Johnson but he dragged his 20-yard shot wide.
Hard work undone
Birmingham were now having almost as much of the possession as the visitors and a half volley from Larsson was not too far off target.
The Swedish international then saw a low cross from Olivier Kapo bobble off his leg and wide after it had taken a slight deflection off Cech.
Chelsea created their best opening to date after 68 minutes when Malouda played in Anelka who found himself with only Taylor to beat.
But Rafael Schmitz got across to make a vital touch on his eventual shot and Taylor was able to make the block.
McLeish made a double substitution after 73 minutes with the injured Jerome and O'Connor replaced by newcomer James McFadden and Mikael Forssell.
And McFadden was soon in the thick of the action, forcing Cech to beat away his low drive.
But with 11 minutes left all the home side's hard work was undone as Pizarro headed in Belletti's corner despite the efforts on the line of Larsson to keep the ball out.
|Birmingham City||Team Statistics||Chelsea|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|2||Shots on Target||6|
|6||Shots off Target||3|
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Ham United||5||7|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||5||5|
|18||Queens Park Rangers||5||4|