Premier League - Malouda sends Chelsea second
Prior to kick-off Carlo Ancelotti had publically conceded the title, but with a trip to Old Trafford to come on May 8, this win keeps alive their slim hopes of catching league leaders Manchester United. Chelsea are now six points off the pace, with the top three all with five games to play.
Birmingham managed to get on the scoresheet with 13 minutes remaining through a Sebastian Larsson penalty, but it was nothing more than a consolation for Alex McLeish's side, who drop a place to 15th having seen their goal difference deteriorate.
And it did not take long to see exactly why the Ivorian was preferred to £50 million man Torres. With the January signing from Liverpool struggling to make any kind of impact since his arrival at the Bridge, Drogba seems determined to prove a point with every chance he gets.
The muscular striker was clearly up for this one from the first whistle, and it was his flick-on at the near post from Paulo Ferreira's cross that allowed Malouda to crash home the opener in just the third minute.
Two minutes later he sent a vicious drive goalwards which Ben Foster - the hero of Birmingham's 1-0 win over Chelsea earlier in the season - was forced to divert over the bar and on 24 minutes he nearly embarrassed Foster with a long-range effort that flew just over its intended target.
Frank Lampard saw a shot fly wide of the upright as Chelsea dominated the opening exchanges, although Birmingham, who were playing with just Cameron Jerome up front, nearly hit on the break after 20 minutes, the lone striker latching onto a long ball forward before seeing his effort saved by Cech at his near post.
It proved the only time the Chelsea backline was seriously breached during the first half and the hosts went on to make their superiority count soon after when Kalou sent a delightful, curling shot just inside the post from the edge of the box on 26 minutes.
Kalou could have added a third just before the break with a header that went wide - again from the marauding Ferreira's cross - before Malouda did make it 3-0 on 62 minutes, heading home from a pinpoint cross from debutant Ryan Bertrand - a second half substitute for Ashley Cole.
Birmingham responded on the break when Matt Derbyshire was upended by David Luiz in the box and Larsson cracked home the resulting spot kick - but not before a spat with Craig Gardner over who should take the penalty.
However his eyes lit up with four minutes remaining, when Larsson was penalised for a backpass to Foster and an indirect free-kick was awarded to Chelsea inside the Birmingham box. Such is his form though - and that of Drogba - it came as no surprise to see Torres overlooked and the Ivorian given the chance to take his personal tally to three goals in four games.
He failed to do so, blazing over the bar, but Chelsea had already scored enough to send them into second place with Arsenal being held by Tottenham on the other side of town in the North London derby.