Lampard cuts loose and sends Chelsea top

Chelsea 3 Birmingham City 0

January was supposed to be a troublesome time for Chelsea with the absence of four key players at the Africa Cup of Nations but instead it has proved to be the perfect month for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

A dismissive victory over Birmingham City last night gave the Blues of London four wins out of four in 2010, and put them back on top of the Premier League table, one point ahead of Manchester United with a game in hand. The club have also refrained from signing any new players, which means Ancelotti will not have to come good on his promise to run naked around the club's training ground if any new players arrive. The only streak at Chelsea is a winning one.

A header from Florent Malouda and two strikes by Frank Lampard were enough to end Birmingham's remarkable run of 15 games unbeaten, which had stretched back to October.

Lampard took his tally to five goals from the four games since Ancelotti tinkered with his formation to accommodate the loss of Didier Drogba. Freed from his role on the left of a midfield diamond, Lampard has recaptured his form thanks to Ancelotti's decision to give the side greater width, in the form of Malouda and Joe Cole.

This was the Lampard of old, the man who has scored 143 goals for the club. With Malouda and Joe Cole rampaging down the flanks, the space has opened up for Lampard to take centre stage again. His two goals were vintage strikes from the edge of the area, his first teed up by Michael Ballack and the second following a pass by Malouda. One with his left, the other with his right. Lampard's rediscovered touch is good news for Fabio Capello, the England manager, in World Cup year; not so good for Chelsea's title rivals.

Chelsea's free-flowing style in the past month, which produced 17 goals in four games, has convinced Ancelotti not to change his formation when Drogba returns to the side for Saturday's trip to Burnley. "We need to have Drogba because he's a fantastic player and, with him, we can play the same football," Ancelotti said. "Our philosophy and aims won't change: to play good football and win. We'll maintain the same system."

A key part of that system was Deco, reinvented as the holding midfielder. Deco looks set to have a decisive role in the coming month, as Michael Essien is to have an operation in Paris tomorrow on a torn meniscus in his left knee and is unlikely to return before March. Deco may lack defensive stature but here he more than made up for it with his ability to maintain the pace of Chelsea's relentless attacks.

Joe Cole and Malouda also flourished against Birmingham, combining in the fifth minute to set Chelsea on their way with a goal of elegant simplicity. Cole dodged past Lee Bowyer down the right wing and lofted a cross to the goalmouth where Malouda rose to head in from three yards. Chelsea battered Birmingham for the majority of the game, hitting the post with a Ricardo Carvalho header before Lampard scored from Michael Ballack's pass in the 32nd minute.

Birmingham rallied late and James McFadden should have scored after 71 minutes, pulling his shot wide. In the dying moments Chelsea tore into Birmingham for a third goal. Deco found Malouda and the Frenchman moved the ball on to Lampard, who swung his left boot to complete another impressive victory.

Chelsea (4-3-2-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole; Ballack, Deco, Lampard; J Cole (Zhirkov, 81), Malouda; Anelka (Sturridge, 88). Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Ferreira, Matic, Alex, Borini.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Hart; Carr, R Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Larsson, Ferguson, Bowyer, McFadden (Michel, 72); Benitez (Fahey, 56), Jerome. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), McSheffrey, Queudrue, D Johnson, Vignal.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Man of the match: Deco.

Attendance: 41,293.

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
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

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there