|Malouda gets his marching orders [GALLO/GETTY]|
Birmingham City went 10 unbeaten games in England’s top flight for the first time in 100 years as Chelsea’s poor run continued in a 0-0 draw at St Andrew’s.
Florent Malouda was sent off in the second half on Saturday to leave boss Carlo Ancelotti contemplating just one win in five games.
|Results & fixtures|
Saturday December 26
Birmingham 0-0 Chelsea
Arsenal v Aston Villa
Monday December 28
Tottenham v West Ham
The Londoners go five points clear of Manchester United, who play at Hull on Sunday.
Roberto Mancini won his first game in charge of Manchester City as Martin Petrov and Carlos Tevez scored to beat Stoke 2-0.
“For me, today is a good match. The players were fantastic because Stoke are a hard team,” Mancini told the BBC after seeing his side go three points behind the top four.
Liverpool won 2-0 at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers in Boxing Day’s late game to ease some pressure on under-fire coach Rafael Benitez with goals from Steven Gerrard and Yossi Benayoun to leap over City into sixth.
Elsewhere in the English Premier League West Ham climbed out of the relegation zone with a 2-0 win over bottom club Portsmouth while Fulham and fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur played out a 0-0 draw in London.
Two East versus West Lancashire derbies saw Burnley come from behind to draw 1-1 with Bolton Wanderers at Turf Moor while Wigan drew 1-1 at home to Blackburn.
Another draw saw Sunderland relinquish a 1-0 lead to finish 1-1 with Everton.
Boxing Day ends with Liverpool’s evening kickoff against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
In Birmingham the visitors carved out nearly all of the game’s best chances but found Birmingham keeper Joe Hart in inspired form while defender Alex rattled the crossbar with a free kick.
Birmingham had a Christian Benitez goal ruled out for offside in the first half but were content to hang on for a draw after the break to stretch their unbeaten league run.
“Chelsea always had a goal threat but the concentration of our players was fantastic,” said Birmingham boss Alex McLeish.
“To go 10 games unbeaten is a phenomenal achievement.”
The news that top scorer Didier Drogba can play in Monday’s home game with Fulham provided some festive cheer for Chelsea.
Drogba, and fellow Ivory Coast striker Salomon Kalou, have been given clearance to delay their departure for next month’s Africa Nations Cup until after the west London derby.
“We asked the national team and the coach (Vahid Halilhodzic) agreed with us,” Ancelotti told the club’s website.
The Stamford Bridge team are facing an exodus of several African players for the tournament in Angola and are also without striker Nicolas Anelka due to injury.