Chelsea move Juan step closer to Wembley

Roberto Di Matteo started the post Villas-Boas era by overcoming a depleted Birmingham side 2-0 on Tuesday night, to set up a home tie versus Leicester City in the Quarter Finals.

A scrappy Juan Mata strike and Raul Meireles piledriver were enough to sink the home side, who went into this game with no less than 8 first-team players either injured or ineligible, even having to draft midfielder Guirane N’Daw in at left-back to help ease the crisis.

Despite the victory, and being only one game away from Wembley, Chelsea fans will undoubtedly be annoyed at another lacklustre performance from their team, but interim boss Di Matteo will just have to hope that they continue to improve, with fixtures against Napoli, Man City, and Tottenham to come in a tough 3 weeks of fixtures.

They could well of made this tie a lot easier though, had Mata not spurned a glorious opportunity in the opening minutes, shooting tamely at Doyle after beating the offside trap.

In an otherwise uneventful first-half, the usually calm and reserved Nikola Zigic let David Luiz know how he left after the Brazilian had accidently caught him with a boot, leaving him with a nasty gash above the eye, before letting his frustrations out on Gary Cahill and earning a yellow card after an overzealous challenge shortly after.

The Serbian striker nearly had the last laugh though, as his acrobatic header was neatly turned over by the otherwise untroubled Petr Cech late in the first half.

The Premier League side picked up the pace after the break though, capitalising on Birminghams failure to clear the ball out their area, and as the ball squirmed out of a melee of players, Juan Mata was there to prod home from close range on 54 minutes.

If the home side had felt hard done by after the goal, matters were made twice as bad on the hour mark, some great play down the right hand side left Ramires to tee up Meireles, who struck home spectacularly from 20 yards, leaving the hapless Doyle grasping at air.

It seemed as though it would be a tough half-hour for the home side, and all hopes of the Quarter Finals looked dashed, especially when Torres earned a penalty in the 69
th minute for the away side.

A humorous moment occurred, as the whole stadium rang out in a chorus of the Spaniards name, the away faithful desperate for him to end a goal drought that was nearing 24 hours of game time, whilst the home fans we’re begging him to carry his recent form with him to the spot.

However, it seemed as if Torres turned down the ball from Mata, who then saw his spot-kick saved, just like at Stamford Bridge in the original tie.

Instead of putting the game to bed, the Midlands side found a new lease of life, buoyed on my the missed spot kick, and the young Jordan Mutch missed a great chance 10 minutes from time, while Marlon King and Nathan Redmond also went close, as Chelsea struggled to keep them at bay in front of the passionate home crowd.

However, a miraculous ending was not on the cards, as the last few minutes faded out under a crisp night sky, leaving Chris Hughton a chance to focus on his teams growing playoff chances, whilst Roberto Di Matteo will be relieved that his first test sailed by successfully, albeit with much sterner tests just over the horizon.

By Bradley Smith

Twitter @BrummieBrad

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