Foster pulls out stops to throw spanner in works for faltering Blues
Birmingham City 1 Chelsea 0
As he sat in the St Andrew's dugout on Saturday, Carlo Ancelotti may well have examined his surroundings.
Before him, the sight of his Chelsea side slipping to a third defeat in four games. Behind him, a clutch of callow substitutes with an average age of 21. Beside him, the unfamiliar shape of Michael Emenalo, the assistant manager imposed on him after the sacking of Ray Wilkins. Precious little comfort available, wherever he looked.
While Ancelotti may have publicly lamented the loss, it was not his team's performance or the three missed points that discouraged him. The narrative of disenchantment at Stamford Bridge is not being driven by results alone.
There appears to be a void at the heart of the club, a dysfunction for which the abrupt departure of Wilkins is clearly acting as a surrogate. For Ancelotti has lost not just one lieutenant, but three.
Perhaps the presence of the injured John Terry or Frank Lampard on Saturday would have inspired Chelsea to make the crucial breakthrough.
They enjoyed 25 shots on goal to Birmingham's one, a simple finish for the unmarked Lee Bowyer after Cameron Jerome's knock-down. Who was meant to be picking up Bowyer's run? Terry would have known.
"We conceded just one opportunity and they scored," Ancelotti said. "We had 10 or 12 opportunities and we were not able to score. But I'm not worried about the team, because we play good football."
That Chelsea came up short was in large part due to Ben Foster, who made at least half a dozen excellent saves. One in particular, a Gordon Banks-esque dive to paw away Didier Drogba's header, was truly outstanding.
"I thought the one the other week was better, to be honest," Foster chuckled, referring to his diving stop against West Ham a fortnight ago. "It was an unbelievable result to get a clean sheet with the pressure they had, one in a million."
Few defences, though, consistently show the tenacity of Birmingham's. Alex McLeish tipped centre-back Roger Johnson for England honours after another superb display and Foster took up the thread.
"We never get any recognition," he said. "Scotty (Dann) and Roger, I thought might be in with a shout of getting a call-up. If they keep putting in performances in like this, then they can't be too far off." (© Daily Telegraph, London)