Chelsea got ahead early and ultimately cruised to an easy win over Birmingham City to move to second in the league on goal difference. Florent Malouda notched a brace and Salomon Kalou scored with a stunning individual effort before Birmingham grabbed a consolation goal from the penalty spot. It was not a night without disappointments at Stamford Birdge, but Chelsea did more than enough for the three points, so one will have to imagine that Carlo Ancelotti will take it.
The Blues were deployed in a 4-3-3 with just one change from the side which thumped West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns, with the injured Branislav Ivanovic dropping to the bench and utilityman Paulo Ferreira coming on in his place. Birmingham, meanwhile, opted to field a 4-4-1-1/4-5-1 system with Alexander Hleb acting as the link player between the visitors' midfield and lone striker Cameron Jerome.
If there was a game plan, Alex McLeish's side had no chance to implement it. Within two minutes of the opening whistle, Chelsea had the ball in the net. John Terry pinged out a perfect long pass to Paulo Ferreira making one of those runs from the right that Ivanovic doesn't, and the Portuguese fullback also made a cross that his Serbian colleague doesn't, finding Didier Drogba at the near post. Drogba flicked the ball onwards, leaving Florent Malouda to stab home past Ben Foster from very close range to make the score 1-0.
Birmingham then had a spell of possession and had a couple of decent chances on goal, the best of which being when Jerome managed to scoot around the back of David Luiz and shoot from a narrow angle, only to find the side netting. There were also corners. Lots of corners. Nothing came of them, though, and when it came time for Chelsea to reply they did so in rather stylish form.
It's funny that Drogba's going to be credited with an assist for this one, considering all he did was play a short pass to Salomon Kalou thirty yards from goal. It's not really a reflection on Drogba that Kalou then proceeded to skip past two defenders and then plant an unstoppable curling effort in off Foster's left post with the goalkeeper not even moving. At 1-0, Birmingham had a chance to get back into things. At 2-0, the game was done.
2-0 is how things would stay until halftime. Not much changed after the break, although Ashley Cole was soon forced off the pitch with a minor knock, paving the way for debutant Ryan Bertrand to make a substitute appearance at left back. It wasn't long until he made a mark either, playing a one-two with Drogba before swinging in a cross for Malouda to notch his second. The whole team went to celebrate the 21-year-old's first senior assist, which was really rather cute.
With twenty minutes to go and the team up 3-0, Carlo Ancelotti decided to introduce both Nicolas Anelka and Fernando Torres, switching Chelsea to a 4-4-2 diamond. It was kind of rubbish, but so were Birmingham, so Chelsea were never in any real danger of losing. They did concede a soft penalty (David Luiz should probably stop doing that) to give away the clean sheet - Seb Larsson's penalty was unsaveable, despite Petr Cech guessing correctly - and had a couple of worrying moments as the game approached its end, but the result was never in question.
So, we're in second place. Four months ago, that would hardly have seemed possible, and it's not a total impossibility that we overhaul Manchester United for the title (it is, however, so improbable that there's no way I'm going to get my hopes up). Not too bad, I think, and what a huge shame it is that we couldn't get more points during that awful November-December run. If we'd picked up points then like we've been doing the rest of the season, we'd be seven points clear at the top of the table.