LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18: Ramires of Chelsea is closed down by Morgaro Gomis of Birmingham City during the FA Cup with Budweiser Fifth Round match between Chelsea and Birmingham City at Stamford Bridge on February 18, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
So, a 1-1 home draw against a Championship team in the fifth round of the FA Cup isn't exactly what the doctor ordered. However, it's a lot better than a loss, which is what we were looking at after a first half performance that resembled the display at Goodison Park, just against a far worse team.Had this been a league game, I'd have been apoplectic, but in the FA Cup it's not really so bad. The replay is set for March 6th, which is conveniently timed for me to be on a plane to Holland.
- Didier Drogba is back. It comes as zero surprise to anyone that the team - especially Daniel Sturridge - looked far better with Drogba in the centre of the pitch. He opens up space for the rest of the strikers, which is something that rival Fernando Torres is completely incapable of.
- Branislav Ivanovic is an infinitely better fullback than Jose Bosingwa. He dealt with the threat of Nathan Redmond pretty easily all day and looked excellent going forward, providing the cross for Sturridge's goal.
- David Luiz has been fantastic for most of 2012, and this was another pretty sterling performance from the centre back. He looks far more comfortable playing at left centre back, and although there were a few wobbles towards the end of the match he basically ate Adam Rooney alive while contributing heavily to the Chelsea attack.
- Salomon Kalou's energy really helps this team out. As weird as it sounds, he's in the starting lineup for me.
- Andre Villas-Boas's substitutions were excellent. The Juan Mata for Frank Lampard thing got some complaints, but introducing Drogba and Kalou while switching us to a 4-2-3-1 gave us a much needed spark, and for most of the second half the team was playing pretty well against a defence that was desperately trying to shut up shop.
- Set piece defending. David Murphy's goal might have been the first we've conceded on a corner all season, but that hasn't been because we've defended them really well. We were an atrocity for the first goal and not much better on Birmingham's other set pieces. That has to be fixed, and Gary Cahill should be our main tool in doing so.
- Ramires and Raul Meireles's passing got us into a lot of trouble. Ramires has the excuse of coming back from an injury. Meireles's excuse, presumably, is that he's not actually very good at this game.
- The entire first half. There's not much to say here. No penetration, no invention, the best two attackers from a Chelsea perspective were defenders. Plus we conceded a goal to Birmingham City. There's no way that's not ugly.
- Juan Mata's penalty. This was pretty dire. Colin Doyle nearly didn't save it, but it was too close to the goalkeeper and completely lacked power. Mata, David Luiz, Lampard and Nicolas Anelka have all missed penalties for us this year, which I'm pretty sure is some sort of record. In a way, the pen miss was a good thing, since 1-1 at halftime wouldn't have forced AVB into doing the right thing at halftime.
- Mohawks. They look terrible you guys. At least Florent Malouda clearly puts some thought into his hair.
- And we never saw Torres again...