Midway through the second half I said to myself, "we're going to lose this game." And on performance alone, we probably should have.
Chelsea struggled to a 1-0 win over Birmingham on Saturday in what can only be described as one of the worst performances of the season. Aside from the opening 20 minutes, these Blues came off second best, at times looking disinterested and docile.
If not for Claudio Pizarro, who coincidently was his usual self, this one surely would have ended 0-0. The Peruvian settled matters in the 79th minute, sending a jarring header past Brum keeper Maik Taylor after flinging himself at a Juliano Belletti cross. Before, Pizarro had demonstrated his ability to not only be ineffective, but detrimental. His pathetic dive two minutes earlier reeked of desperateness. In any case, he doubled his league goal tally to two -- the other strike coming on opening day against Birmingham.
Those Blues, showing a renewed vigor under Alex McCleish, continued their improvement here. Birmingham were awarded a host of scoring chances, their best the product of a goalkeeping gaffe worthy of the Roy Carroll sign of approval. Petr Cech, who has been uncharacteristically susceptible this season, received a back pass and, with nobody around, struck the ball right at Brum striker Cameron Jerome. An empty net awaited but Jerome's header struck a post and bounced back into play.
Regardless of the miss, the play appeared to spark those Blues who managed to control the match until our fortunate winner.
Back to the harsh criticism. I feel like I must point out the fact that Florent Malouda has yet to impress me. While I do plan on giving the man due time to settle, his feckless performances are still disturbing. And, if Malouda is going to complain about Chelsea not sending a private jet to pick him up from his Magic the Gathering tournaments, then I believe it's fair for me to criticize. That's all I'm saying.
Man of the Match: Claude Makelele
Rarely Used Substitute of the Match: Steve Sidwell