Birmingham City 0 Chelsea 1: Rare Pizarro strike keeps Chelsea's slim hopes alive

Claudio Pizarro, the striker who Chelsea supporters feared might never score in the Premier League again, confounded doubters yesterday to maintain the push towards the top of the table. He might find goals hard to come by against everyone else, but against Birmingham City he is deadly.

The Peruvian striker struck with a header with 11 minutes to go to earn Chelsea their eighth away League success and to mirror the goal he also got against Birmingham on the first weekend of the season. Pity about the 20 other games when he found the net so elusive there were those who believed they had imagined the first.

It was an important, if surprising, strike for Chelsea, who spent much of the afternoon looking like a team likely to lose ground on the leaders. Instead they continue to defy the absence of key figures due to injury and involve-ment in the Africa Nations Cup. That was due to Pizarro, who has found limitless ways to miss since August and was on the pitch only because Shaun Wright-Phillips injured an ankle, but who used his impressive frame to elude his marker from Juliano Belletti's corner and stooped to crash a header from six yards into the roof of the net.

"He had one of his best games for us and deserved to score," Avram Grant, the Chelsea manager, said while refusing to accept his team had been fortunate to claim three points. "Apart from the last 10 minute of the first half we dominated possession. We had to be patient, because Birmingham are a difficult team to play against and we didn't create many chances."

Unsurprisingly, Alex McLeish, Grant's Birmingham counterpart, disagreed. "We matched Chelsea but couldn't quite get the result," he said. "There's no point moping or feeling sorry for ourselves. It was a great performance and the crowd greatly appreciated it."

The facts support McLeish. Chelsea had plenty of the ball but it was the home side who did more with it. Particularly towards the end of the first half, when Birmingham were unfortunate not to take the lead.

Birmingham were relying on tough tackling and counter-attacks until a mistake by the normally impeccable Petr Cech in the 38th minute almost gave them the lead. The Chelsea goalkeeper thumped a clearance 20 yards straight at Cameron Jerome, who had no time to aim so could only stick out his head and hope. The ball rebounded off a post.

Jerome also beat Cech with two shots only to see them blocked by Ricardo Carvalho and Alex, but the most glaring missed opportunity came after 57 minutes. Fabrice Muamba dribbled along the byline, and when he passed towards the near post Sebastian Larsson was two yards out with an open goal. A despairing touch from Cech flicked the ball up a fraction, however, and the ball hit the Swede rather than the other way round and bounced wide and high.

Until this point the service to Nicolas Anelka had been so poor that he would have been forgiven for thinking wistfully of Bolton, but he had a chance after 67 minutes and fluffed it. Florent Malouda gave him space with a clever pass and you would have wagered your house on the French striker beating Maik Taylor. Instead his shot lacked conviction and it was saved with ease. Anelka looked bemused and was probably even more so in the 79th minute when Pizarro got the winner. The man who cannot score had eclipsed the striker who rarely misses.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform