Chelsea 1-1 Birmingham: Murphy, Sturridge score
Chelsea were guilty of producing another poor performance as they failed to alleviate the pressure on under-fire manager Andre Villas-Boas when drawing 1-1 at home to Birmingham City in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Villas-Boas, who has overseen a run of just two wins in 10 Premier League games and held a heated inquest with his players following a defeat to Everton last weekend, found himself under renewed scrutiny on 20 minutes when David Murphy exploited some lacklustre defending to put the Championship side in front.
Juan Mata then saw a penalty expertly saved by Birmingham keeper Colin Doyle and with Chelsea struggling to break down their opponents, Villas-Boas responded at half-time by ruthlessly withdrawing the disappointing Fernando Torres, who is now without a goal in 22 games for club and country.
A more cohesive second-half performance was the result and the impressive Daniel Sturridge equalised just after the hour mark when heading home unmarked, but with the crowd expressing discontent at the final whistle, chief executive Ron Gourlay shaking his head in the stands and Chelsea now facing an unwelcome replay, Villas-Boas remains under considerable pressure.
Birmingham were dealt an early setback when captain Stephen Carr was forced off due to an injury but the change appeared to have no real effect on the visiting defence in what was an accomplished Birmingham performance in the first half at Stamford Bridge.
Torres, who after six minutes marked 21 hours of football without a goal, was rather isolated in attack as a midfield containing Ramires, John Obi Mikel and Raul Meireles looked somewhat uninspired while Frank Lampard sat on the bench.
However, when Chelsea fell behind after 20 minutes it was due to a defensive lapse. The home side defended horribly from a corner as Curtis Davies tried and failed to execute an overhead kick, and Branislav Ivanovic appeared to turn his back on the ball as Murphy thumped home from close range.
Inside two minutes Chelsea should have been level. Ramires took possession of the ball in the box and drew a clumsy challenge from Wade Elliott to earn a penalty. However, Mata, who has been a rare glimmer of hope in an otherwise traumatic season at Stamford Bridge, saw his penalty tipped onto the post by a fine save from Colin Doyle.
It was an exasperating moment for Villas-Boas and his men, who were struggling to carve out clear-cut chances against the Championship side and could not afford to pass up a penalty. They were being restricted to shots from range, and when Sturridge did find Torres with a cross the Spaniard was unable to get a clean shot away under pressure from the excellent Curtis Davies.
David Luiz, in full PlayStation mode, did embark on one marauding run forward to win a free kick, from which the Brazilian defender forced Doyle into a smart save, while Sturridge also threatened with a lovely piece of thigh control and a stunning volley following a header back from Torres.
However, Chelsea were largely unimpressive and chants of "sacked in the morning" and "Jose Mourinho" reverberated from the visiting end. The lively Nathan Redmond tested Petr Cech with a low effort as Birmingham sought to extend their lead on the break before Chelsea were denied again when Mata saw a header saved by Doyle just before half-time.
The response from the Chelsea manager was to withdraw Torres at half time after yet another ineffectual display from the striker. Doing so at such an early juncture represented a scathing judgement of a player who has not scored in 22 games for club and country and also heralded the return of Didier Drogba from the African Cup of Nations.
The Ivorian looked lively following his introduction but Chelsea were almost undone by familiar failings again as more slack defending from a corner allowed Redmond to fire over the bar with a fierce first-time effort.
Villas-Boas sought to change things again just before the hour mark as Salomon Kalou replaced Mikel and Mata was asked to move into a central area to play off Drogba. The change quicky resulted in the Spaniard having a good chance as he pulled down a long ball in the box and fired wide with his right foot.
Mata was involved again when Chelsea drew level on 61 minutes. The Spaniard took possession in a central area and spread the ball wide to Ivanovic, who delivered a teasing cross from the right. Sturridge was left completely unmarked and directed the ball just inside the far post with a lovely header.
The England international had been Chelsea's most effective player and subsequently won his side a corner off Murphy as he continued to trouble the visiting defence. The set piece was cleared into the path of Meireles, who saw his low drive deflected up and just over the bar.
Birmingham, missing strikers Nikola Zigic and Marlon King, were blunt in attack although Jordan Mutch did test Cech with one firm strike from a free kick after he was brought down 25 yards from goal. Redmond was also gifted with a fine chance late on but fired his shot straight at the Chelsea keeper.
Looking to secure a win that, however unconvincing, would have eased some of the pressure on his shoulders, Villas-Boas threw on Lampard but his decision to make Mata the fall guy was met with discontent from the home supporters.
Further boos greeted the final whistle, while Gourlay and chairman Bruce Buck also looked rather displeased following confirmation that Chelsea must now visit St Andrew's in a replay.
TEAMS: Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahil, Bertrand, Ramires, Mikel, Meireles, Sturridge, Torres, Mata. Subs: Hilario, Bosingwa, Essien, Lampard, Malouda, Kalou, Drogba. /// Birmingham: Doyle, Carr, Davies, Ibanez, Murphy, Redmond, Mutch, Fahey, Gomis, Elliott, Rooney. Subs: Butland, Caldwell, Spector, Burke, Reilly, Asante, Jervis.