Improved Chelsea ease through in FA Cup

Birmingham 0 Chelsea 2

Juan Mata kept up his record of scoring in every round of this season’s FA Cup as Chelsea started life under interim manager Roberto di Matteo with a convincing fifth-round replay victory.

The ever-impressive Mata set the visitors on their way to a desperately needed win after the break when he poked home the opener following great work by Raul Ramires.

And Meireles smashed home the second on the hour to settle the nerves after a traumatic week in which Andre Villlas-Boas was sacked on the back of a run of just three wins in 12 Premier League games.

Di Matteo enjoyed an encouraging start as interim boss.

The otherwise faultless Mata also missed a penalty as the visitors threatened to run riot after the interval.

But Mata’s miss mattered little as Chelsea secured a quarter-final tie against Leicester with relative ease.

Championship side Birmingham matched them in an edgy, goalless first period in which Chelsea keeper Petr Cech was forced to produce a brilliant save to keep out an equally brilliant header from Nicola Zigic.

Mata did twice go close and Ramires also poked an effort wide, but it was not until the second half that the Londoners took control.

They started playing with far greater purpose and went ahead after great work by Ramires on the right.

The Brazilian won possession and although his cross initially saw Mata get in Salomon Kalou’s way, the Spaniard took advantage of a fortunate break to stab the ball home.

Mata almost nodded in a second from a swift counter-attack within three minutes but Meireles did make it 2-0 on the hour with a truly stunning strike from the edge of the box.

Again the goal was made on the right. This time Branislav Ivanovic skipped past his man and his cross was exquisitely laid off by Gary Cahill and then Ramires before being thundered into the net by the Portuguese.

Mata should have added his second from the spot after Fernando Torres, who once again gave a Jekyll and Hyde display, was felled in the box.

The chances came at both ends after that as the game opened up, Daniel Sturridge missing a glorious chance for Chelsea, and Birmingham going close through Marlon King and Jordan Mutch.

But Chelsea’s organisation, discipline and slick passing was a world apart from some of their recent displays and they were worthy winners in a game that goes some way to restoring their bruised pride.

It was only their second victory since Mata’s penalty secured a 1-0 win at neighbours QPR in the previous round.

Follow West London Sport on Twitter
Find us on Facebook