Chelsea started life after Andre Villas-Boas with an improved performance as goals from Juan Mata and Raul Meireles secured a 2-0 win over second tier Birmingham City in an FA Cup Fifth Round replay on Tuesday. Roberto Di Matteo, appointed interim coach for the rest of the season after Villas-Boas was sacked following a sequence of one win in seven matches, was all smiles after starting his reign with a victory. The visiting Chelsea fans began the match at St Andrews with incessant chants for their former manager Jose Mourinho, who led the club to two Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006, but ended the tie with loud cries of ‘There’s only one Di Matteo’. The Italian made several changes to the team, leaving out Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Daniel Sturridge and recalling Meireles, Fernando Torres, Salomon Kalou and John Obi Mikel. Ashley Cole also missed out with an ankle injury and there was no discernible change from the Villas-Boas era in the first half as six-times FA Cup winners Chelsea struggled to impose themselves on Chris Hughton’s Birmingham.
Mata opened the scoring just after the break, slotting the ball into the corner of the net after the ball was prodded into his path by a Birmingham defender following a goalmouth scramble. Meireles sealed the win on the hour mark, rifling the ball into the roof of the net from the edge of the box after a lay-off from Ramires. The win could have been greater when Fernando Torres won a penalty, but the goal shy Spaniard shunned the responsibility and let regular taker Mata step up, but he saw his effort saved.
The next task for Di Matteo is to lift Chelsea up from fifth in the Premier League, starting with Saturday’s home game against Stoke City, and to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit in next week’s Champions League first knockout round tie with Napoli.
“I think our attitude was right tonight, the commitment was right, the passion was there and we had a clean sheet. But the most important thing was to get through to the next round and to show that we cared.
“Everybody was involved tonight, the people on the bench too. That’s the only way we are going to reach our targets this season,” -Di Matteo after winning his first match.
Chelsea fullback Ashley Cole is set be the target of a transfer tug-of-war between European heavyweights Barcelona and Milan according to the press reports this morning. The Stamford Bridge star is said to be unsettled at Chelsea and Monday’s departure of coach Andres Villas-Boas has further frustrated the England international who has been at the club for six years. Barcelona were reportedly interested in making a summer move for the 31-year-old and Fichajes.com also now claim Serie A giants Milan are also ready to make a move for Cole. Cole arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2006 following a transfer deal with Arsenal that also involved William Gallas, but he is now said to want a Chelsea exit as the club experience a difficult transition period that has jeopardised their Champions League qualification hopes for next season.
- Chelsea get off to flyer under Di Matteo but priorities lie elsewhere | Dominic Fifield (guardian.co.uk)
- Chelsea pain finds no cure in Cup win (independent.co.uk)
- Chelsea begin life under Di Matteo with Cup win (canada.com)
- Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea debut as manager: five talking points | Jamie Jackson (guardian.co.uk)
- Birmingham 0 Chelsea 2 (thesun.co.uk)