Terry leads the way as Chelsea go back for seconds

Chelsea 2 - Birmingham City 0
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The FA Cup has evidently not yet reached a serious enough stage for Jose Mourinho to consider fielding his full-strength, multimillion pound, unadulterated first string, which meant that yesterday was the turn of the Chelsea understudies. But then these are no ordinary understudies, because Chelsea Seconds have ambitions of their own.

The FA Cup has evidently not yet reached a serious enough stage for Jose Mourinho to consider fielding his full-strength, multimillion pound, unadulterated first string, which meant that yesterday was the turn of the Chelsea understudies. But then these are no ordinary understudies, because Chelsea Seconds have ambitions of their own.

Sir Alex Ferguson might have introduced squad rotation to English football, but Mourinho has perfected the art. Against the best that Birmingham City had to offer he made eight changes from the Carling Cup team that beat Manchester United on Wednesday and it was hard to spot the difference in quality. If this was the Chelsea squad's way of telling their manager that he needed no new recruits, Ashley Cole or anyone else, then they made a compelling case.

There was some complaint about Chelsea's first goal when John Terry blocked the path of the Birmingham defender Martin Taylor in order to allow Robert Huth to meet Damien Duff's corner unopposed, but it was a footnote to another performance of domination. "It's something that has been going on for 20 years, you just hope the referee sees it," Bruce said. "To be fair to him he just turned his back as the kick was taken. It's a training ground routine but it was a foul."

A foul perhaps but it only seemed to emphasise the point that this Chelsea team are slicker and savvier than any of the competition - even Terry admitted that his block on Taylor was intentional. Huth connected with such power that Maik Taylor could do nothing to stop his header ripping into the net and from then, the sixth minute, Chelsea never once looked like they would retreat from their position of superiority.

Any student of the Mourinho coaching philosophy, as outlined in his latest book, will tell you that he encourages his players to chase and apply pressure when they do not have the ball and take their rest when they are in possession. At times yesterday it was less of a rest and more of a holiday. The prospect of four trophies lives on and Chelsea's passage into the FA Cup fifth round was achieved at a canter.

It does nothing for the spirits of an away team that is losing at Stamford Bridge to see Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben and Frank Lampard gradually introduced to a game they are chasing, but Birmingham were beaten long before that trio appeared. The new signing, Jiri Jarosik, did not arrive from CSKA Moscow this month with a reputation to match some of his new team-mates, but the Czech international was immovable in the midfield.

Mourinho's only real complaint could have been that Huth, missing for so much of the season through injury, has now picked up a knee ligament problem. Yet, it would be impossible to expect that Chelsea will visit Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday with anything short of total confidence in the belief that they are the team the rest of English football has not yet worked out how to beat.

Birmingham's resistance improved marginally at the start of the second half when Darren Anderton volleyed a cross from Julian Gray over the bar with 52 minutes gone. Another effort from the former England winger moments later appeared to strike Terry's arm and the Chelsea captain looked most uncertain when he miscalculated a header back to his goalkeeper, Carlo Cudicini.

However, it was with good reason that Mourinho nominated Terry as his player of the season. With 10 minutes remaining it was Terry's thumping header from Lampard's cross that decided the game. In the closing stages, Chelsea increased the pressure once again, almost as if in their minds they had already moved on to Wednesday and the next challenge at Ewood Park.

Goals: Huth (6) 1-0; Terry (80) 2-0.

Chelsea (4-4-2): Cudicini; Johnson, Terry, Huth, Bridge; Cole, Jarosik, Smertin, Duff (Robben, h-t); Gudjohnsen (Drogba, 65), Kezman (Lampard, 62). Substitutes not used: Pidgeley (gk), Geremi.

Birmingham (4-4-2): Taylor; Melchiot (Tebily, 26), Upson, Taylor, Clapham; Anderton (Yorke, 75), Carter, Clemence, Gray; Heskey (Morrison, 73), Blake. Substitutes not used: Vaesen (gk), Kuqi.

Referee: M Dean (Wirral).

Booked: Birmingham City Upson.

Man of the match: Terry.

Attendance: 40,379.

Record loss, page 60

Comments