McLeish toasts Foster as Chelsea problems mount

Birmingham City 1 Chelsea 0

Chelsea's blip is in danger of becoming a full-blown slump. The champions' standard still flutters on the Premier League summit, but it is looking increasingly ragged after Birmingham, third from bottom at kick-off, emulated Sunderland's win over them. Lee Bowyer converted their only scoring chance early on before they mounted a rearguard action in whichBen Foster answered criticsof his performance forEngland in midweek.

Foster's brilliance was largely responsible for Chelsea's failure to score for the fifth time in nine League fixtures – after the previous eight had delivered 38 goals – yet there was a desperation about Carlo Ancelotti's side from around the hour mark. They have now lost successive League games for the first time since May 2006, and three of the past four, while their schedule over the next month pits them against Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Chelsea finished the contest with Petr Cech marauding in the Birmingham 18-yard area. Their overwhelming territorial dominance led Ancelotti to claim it was not as worrying a setback as last weekend's; it was just that fortune had not favoured them.

"We didn't win because I think we were unlucky," the Chelsea manager said. "We played good football and had lots of chances, but we lost. As a performance, everything was ok. We just had one mistake when we lost a player [Bowyer] who ran into the box."

The announcement that Ray Wilkins, Ancelotti's former assistant, intends to take action for unfair dismissal did not, according to the Italian, "affect this moment". The injured John Terry and Frank Lampard were again absent, with Ancelotti adding: "We want them back, though we didn't miss them today because we didn't deserve to lose."

Alex McLeish was quick to praise Foster. "The criticism of him after the France match was harsh," the Birmingham manager said. "A goalkeeper can win you championships and keep you in a division and today he carried on the great, solid work he's done for us. We had to defend really stoutly, and we had a wee bit of luck, and there have been games we've deserved to win where we haven't."

Ancelotti was joined on the bench by Michael Emenalo, who has replaced Wilkins, and as if to honour the Nigerian Chelsea sported a lime-green strip similar to the Super Eagles' shirt. There was an African flavour to their initial ascendancy, too, one fine move seeing Salomon Kalou send his fellow Ivorian Didier Drogbain for a shot which theadvancing Foster saved.

Birmingham exposed Chelsea's soft centre with a 17th-minute goal against the run of play. Sebastian Larsson crossed for Cameron Jerome to outjump Paulo Ferreira and nod the ball into the path of Bowyer, who side-footed his first goal of the season.

This was the cue for a 73-minute siege, but after a chastening night at Wembley against France, Foster was defiance personified. Following a cross by Nicolas Anelka midway through the opening half, his diving, one-handed save from Drogba's sharp, downward header was brilliant.

The first half turned into a personal duel between Foster and Drogba and when the striker did beat him, with a glancing header from Florent Malouda's cross, the ball slapped the bar. In the second half, another fine save kept out a Branislav Ivanovic header.

Birmingham's resistance verged on illegality when Roger Johnson appeared to bring down Ramires as he surged into the box. The referee, Mark Halsey, ruled he had taken a bit of the ball first, and the injured Johnson, who needs to lose a limb before he will consider coming off, received treatment before resuming his place and using his aerial strength to keep Drogba and his cohorts at bay.

Attendance: 24,357

Referee: Mark Halsey

Man of the match: Foster

Match rating: 6/10

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Life and Style
fashion
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

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches