Birmingham 0 Chelsea 2: Di Matteo pleased with Blues’ passion
Chelsea caretaker boss Roberto Di Matteo full of praise for his side's attitude after their FA Cup win against Birmingham City
Caretaker boss Roberto Di Matteo hailed Chelsea’s commitment as his side booked their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals with victory over Birmingham City at St Andrew’s on Tuesday.
Chelsea, playing their first game since Andre Villas-Boas’s dismissal on Sunday, struggled in the first half but finally made the breakthrough in the 54th minute when Ramires’ cross was bundled past Birmingham goalkeeper Colin Doyle by Juan Mata to the settle the visitors’ nerves.
The Blues then confirmed a sixth-round clash with Leicester at Stamford Bridge when Raul Meireles rifled a long-range shot into the top corner with 30 minutes remaining.
“The attitude was right, the commitment was right, the passion was there and the result was right,” said Di Matteo.
“But the most important thing tonight was to get through into the next round, and show the supporters we care and that we can put a performance in.
“Everybody was involved in that tonight, including the people on the bench.”
Chelsea started brightly, and Fernando Torres’ incisive pass released compatriot Mata – but the Spanish midfielder’s shot was blocked with Salomon Kalou unmarked in the centre.
With half-time approaching, Chelsea skipper Petr Cech made a superb save to deny Birmingham’s Nikola Zigic after the giant Serb had glanced Wade Elliott’s cross goalwards.
The Blues improved in the second half and finally took the lead when Ramires broke down the right wing, crossing for Mata who turned the ball into the net.
While there was a hint of scrappiness about Chelsea’s opener, their second goal oozed class after a sequence of touches between Branislav Ivanovic and Ramires teed up Meireles, who unleashed a ferocious strike past Doyle.
The visitors had the chance to add a third when Torres won a penalty – Mata stepped up but Doyle repeated his heroics at Stamford Bridge from two-and-a-half weeks ago, and saved the Spaniard’s effort.
Di Matteo urged Chelsea to re-group following Villas-Boas’ sacking and challenged the Blues to finish the campaign on a positive note.
“We have two months left until the end of the season,” he added. “We have to work together and try to achieve the goals we’ve set ourselves for this season.
“It is only possible if all the 25 players in the squad are going to be a little bit unselfish for the last two months and work together.”