Chelsea and Birmingham City drew 1-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon, forcing a replay of their FA Cup tie. put the visitors ahead on 20 minutes, with Juan Mata missing a penalty just two minutes later. It was Daniel Sturridge that got the equalizer, but Andre Villas-Boas's men couldn't find that extra spark that would allow them to pull off a win.
The first twenty minutes of the match were a dull, scraggly affair. The Chelsea side simply wasn't clicking, displaying misplayed pass after misplayed pass. Birmingham made it difficult for the hosts to find their rhythm, but weren't exactly perfect when they tried to go forward, either. Things got worse for the visiting Blues when, not even fifteen minutes into the match, captain Stephen Carr was forced to limp off the pitch, not being able to shake off a mean tackle by Ryan Bertrand.
But it was Chelsea's defense that cracked -- and did so in a spectacular fashion. Having conceded a corner kick, the Chelsea players crowded around the near post. The ball dropped in, bounced around, and fell to Birmingham left-back Murphy, alone at the far post. While Chelsea were still trying to figure out where the ball had landed, Murphy bundled the ball past Petr Cech and into the back of the net.
Just two minutes later, the home side had their chance to equalize. Wade Elliott, in apparently a rash moment of panic, executed a sloppy challenge on Ramires as he entered the area, clipping the midfielder's knee. With Didier Drogba on the bench, it was Mata who stepped up to the spot. Mata placed his shot low and to the left, but Colin Doyle got a hand to it, pushing it into the post.
Despite a decent attempt by Sturridge, whose long-range shot grazed the top of Doyle's net, that's where the score stood at halftime, 1-0 to the visitors. Having just finished a rousing round of "Jose Mourinho", the Chelsea supporters sent their team into the locker room with a chorus of boos.
Andre Villas-Boas was left with no option but to replace Fernando Torres with Drogba at the break. And although the Ivorian might be one of those "old guard" that AVB prefers not to rely upon, but it's easy to see that the imposing forward still has the power to change the game -- and to lift the crowd. After Drogba managed to get behind the Birmingham defense twice in his first five minutes on the pitch, the mood at Stamford Bridge was much more hopeful.
Surprisingly, though, Drogba wasn't involved in the Chelsea goal. Branislav Ivanovic took the ball to the right corner flag before sending a perfect cross into the middle of the area. Sturridge climbed above the Birmingham defense to head the ball past Doyle and into the back of the net.
Birmingham barely looked interested in re-taking the lead. For a Championship club experiencing financial difficulties, perhaps risking a replay was more financially rewarding than grabbing the win? Their greatest effort in the second half came in the 87th minute, but Nathan Redmond's shot was easily stopped by Cech.