Birmingham 0 Chelsea 0: All systems Joe! Carlo Ancelotti needs creator Joe Cole to step up to the plate

Time for Joe Cole to step up to the mark.

Top of the league they may be, but Chelsea need creativity and goals.

After one victory in seven, there is no need for panic yet, but listen to the words of Carlo Ancelotti and you realise he is in need of inspiration.

Joe Cole

His time: Joe Cole could play an important role in the coming weeks

‘We have lost a little bit of confidence in our play,’ he said.

‘It’s normal when you don’t get results. We have had some injuries. We are a little bit tired. This can happen.

‘We did very well against Arsenal. Now we are a little bit down. Without the African players we have to show we can play without them.

‘But there are a lot of matches and it is impossible to stay all the time in the top condition. But today I think we gave signs that are good for the future.’

Shorn of their influential African influence for a month after today’s derby against Fulham, the Italian has also suffered a further blow with Florent Malouda’s suspension following two bookable offences at St Andrew’s.

It places an extra burden on Cole, who is certain to start at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.

The 3,500 away contingent were howling for his involvement after an hour on Saturday.

And while this might have been the first time in 33 matches since late April that Chelsea have not found the net, this blank was coming.

Florent Malouda

You're off: Florent Malouda sees red

Against Portsmouth, West Ham and Birmingham, Ancelotti’s side has scored once in open play. Although he has been used sparingly, it appears Cole’s time has come.

‘It’s not easy for Joe to do his best after nine months out,’ said Chelsea’s boss.

‘He has to improve and stay focused. He hasn’t got to lose the confidence in himself.

'He has quality and he’s a fantastic player. I think he will show this in his next game.’

Ancelotti was relatively pleased with Daniel Sturridge, but it is asking too much for him to shoulder the goalscoring burden alone.

There would not be so much of an issue today had Chelsea not encountered a keeper in Joe Hart and a team in Birmingham who defend their goal as if their professional lives depend upon it.

Hart gave his most assured performance in the home goal by a distance. One save from Frank Lampard had the England star shaking his head in disbelief. He was also involved in a crunching collision with Salomon Kalou.

Joe Hart

Sudden impact: Keeper Joe Hart feels the full force of Salomon Kalou¿s boot and is laid out

It brought back memories of Petr Cech’s injury at Reading as Hart was down for seven minutes.

‘The doctor put two staples in my head when I wasn’t looking,’ said Hart.

‘He told me he had to do it to stop the bleeding. If he’d have told me what he was doing, I wouldn’t have let him so he just shot them in when I wasn’t looking.

You can’t wash it — (blood in hair). I didn’t know whether it was a staple gun — he was behind me! He glued the one on my forehead.

'I got it (the ball) in plenty of time. It was unfortunate. I say “unfortunate” but the bottom of his boot caught my head. No harm was done and the ball didn’t go in so it didn’t really matter.

‘I spoke to Petr (Cech) afterwards because he was down after he crashed into the upright trying to keep out Seb Larsson’s free-kick. He was very grateful he was wearing his helmet.


Ouch: Hart's head is stapled back together

'He said it saved him because it caught him right on the side of his head. Each to their own but I don’t need one at the moment.’

Chelsea enjoyed more chances than most who have turned up at St Andrew’s this season. Lampard’s first-half effort was kept out by a superb reflex stop by Hart, who brilliantly denied Kalou with a one-handed save.

Alex also fired a thunderous 35-yard free kick against the bar. At the other end, Larsson’s free-kick was kept out by Cech and Birmingham had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside when Christian Benitez sidefooted home.

Ten matches unbeaten for McLeish’s side leaves them just one short of a club record, set during the 1905-06 season.

‘I’m running out of superlatives for these guys,’ said McLeish.

‘We keep asking the question and they keep coming up with the answers.’

What Ancelotti wouldn’t give to be able to utter the same sentence in a few weeks’ time.


BIRMINGHAM: (4-4-2) Hart 9; Carr 7, R Johnson 8, Dann 8, Ridgewell 7; Larsson 7 (D Johnson, 87min), Ferguson 7, Bowyer 7, McFadden 6 (Fahey 77); Jerome 7, Benitez 7.
Booked: Bowyer.

CHELSEA: (4-4-2) Cech 7; Ivanovic 6, Alex 7, Terry 7, A Cole 6; Belletti 6, Mikel 6 (Ballack 84), Lampard 6 (J Cole 78), Malouda 5; Sturridge 5 (Kalou 67, 6), Drogba 6.

Sent off: Malouda. Booked: Ivanovic.

Man of the match: Joe Hart.

Referee: Peter Walton.

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