Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas‘ problems mounted on Saturday after his side laboured to a 1-1 draw with lower league Birmingham in their FA Cup fifth round tie. Daniel Sturridge headed home a second-half equalizer to save Chelsea’s blushes at a restive Stamford Bridge after David Murphy had fired Birmingham into a shock lead on 20 minutes. Villas-Boas’ position has come under scrutiny following reports of a training ground mutiny by his senior players after last weekend’s Premier League defeat against Everton at Goodison Park. His team has now won just one game in their last six games across all competitions and Villas-Boas was forced to watch as his side were booed off the field following another unconvincing display.
For while he is in no danger of popping his clogs just yet, defeat against Napoli on Tuesday could see Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich reading the last rites to his young manager – with many believing he has just three days to save his job. The snatched second-half equalizer against the visitors was surely only a stay of execution for AVB. The Portuguese coach is fast becoming a helpless case and desperately in need of some good news.
Birmingham’s opener owed everything to poor Chelsea defending from a set piece. Nathan Redmond’s corner eluded a clutch of blue shirts to bounce across the six-yard box and found David Murphy who extremely composed and buried the bouncing ball into the net, putting the visiting side up 1-0. Chelsea were presented with a golden chance to equalise within seconds, when from the restart Wade Elliott conceded a penalty with a clumsy hack on Ramires. Juan Mata stepped up to take the spot-kick but Colin Doyle in the Birmingham goal guessed correctly and parried the Spaniard’s shot onto the post to preserve the visitors lead. Doyle frustrated Chelsea once more on 34 minutes, the Birmingham keeper parrying away David Luiz’s free-kick as the Brazilian’s curling effort homed in to the top corner. The man he spent £50million on – Fernando Torres, again failed to impress, hauled off at half-time for Didier Drogba, who was a surprise substitute following the African Nations Cup.
Chelsea’s higher-tempo start to the second half paid off in the 62nd minute, when Branislav Ivanovic sent in a teasing cross from the right which an unmarked Sturridge met with a glancing header. Immediately, Stamford Bridge took a sigh of relief. It looked like Chelsea were going to steal a win, but Birmingham didn’t let them. The visitors held strong and could’ve won the match as Nathan Redmond broke through. Unfortunately for Birmingham, his shot wasn’t much of a test for Petr Cech. Chelsea continued to dominate both territory and possession thereafter they struggled to create clear chances, and not even the late introduction of Frank Lampard for Mata could break the deadlock.
Chelsea now have just 180 minutes to save their season and their manager’s job. The first 90 minutes will come at Napoli on Tuesday night when they carry the hopes of their country in a Champions League battle that could decide the fate of Andre Villas-Boas. The other 90 will come at Birmingham’s St Andrew’s in a last 16 replay they were probably a tad fortunate to get after what, for them, was a dismal draw yesterday. Birmingham will now host Chelsea for the replay at St Andrew’s on the 6th of March.
Booked : Cahill (55′), Luiz (90+2′)
Man of the match: Daniel Sturridge
Match rating: 6.0/10.
Possession: Chelsea 54% Birmingham 46%
Attempts (on target): Chelsea 12(5) Birmingham 6(5)
Referee: M. Atklinson
- Dressing-room unrest at Chelsea lands Roman Abramovich in awkward seat | David Hytner (guardian.co.uk)
- Chelsea struggle to draw with Birmingham (nation.com.pk)
- Villas-Boas adamant he retains Abramovich’s full support (guardian.co.uk)
- André Villas-Boas strikes a sorry figure as Chelsea stumble in FA Cup | Amy Lawrence (guardian.co.uk)
- Chelsea Vs. Birmingham, 2012 FA Cup: 1-1 Draw Means A Replay At St. Andrews (sbnation.com)