21st of November 2015

Blues back to winning ways over Norwich (1-0)

The Blues returned to winning ways as Diego Costa’s second-half goal ensured Blues took maximum points against Norwich at Stamford Bridge.

It was a deserved victory for Jose Mourinho‘s side, who performed well throughout and also hit the woodwork.

The decisive goal came after 63 minutes when Diego Costa raced on to a Cesc Fabregas free-kick and produced a fine finish.

Kurt Zouma then volleyed against the bar soon after, but the first of three games over a nine-day period ended in victory.

There were three changes to the side beaten at Stoke a fortnight ago, two of which came at full-back. Branislav Ivanovic returned to the side having not played for over a month, while Kenedy was handed his first Premier League start at left-back.

In midfield Fabregas came in for Ramires, the Spaniard playing alongside Nemanja Matic.

Pedro, Willian and Eden Hazard meanwhile were given the task of supplying the creativity in behind lone striker Diego Costa.

Prior to kick-off, as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives in last week’s terror attacks in Paris, the French national anthem was played inside the stadium, with all four stands applauding the gesture.

Once the game got underway it was the Blues enjoying most of the possession during the opening few minutes and Hazard, operating in the ‘number 10’ position, was unfortunate not to latch on to a clever Fabregas pass from deep.

Our first opportunity arrived nine minutes in and it came courtesy of the same combination after Diego Costa had released Hazard. The Belgian drove into the penalty area but, as he pulled it back to Fabregas, who was under pressure from both sides, the midfielder could only guide the ball over the bar.

Three minutes later John Terry almost produced a carbon copy of Gianfranco Zola’s stunning back-heel volley, coincidentally against Norwich, in 2002, when he arrived at the near post to meet a Willian corner but struck the side-netting. It really was a wonderful piece of skill by the captain and deserved better.

As Norwich broke quickly Asmir Begovic was called into action for the first time and did well to save a powerful Nathan Redmond strike low down to his right. At the other end John Ruddy denied Willian in similar fashion following an impressive piece of play byHazard.

The visitors were looking threatening with their pace on the break and when Martin Olsson delivered from wide on the left, Dieumerci Mbokani had time to take a touch and get his strike, which sailed over the bar, away.

As the clock ticked past the 25-minute mark we opened up a resolute Norwich backline with a wonderful move and should have taken the lead. Hazard, Fabregas and Pedrocombined brilliantly, the latter’s cross to Diego Costa was an inviting one but the striker fired over the bar from a great position.

As the half progressed we began to get a real hold of the game and looked the side most likely to break the deadlock, with Ruddy making another fine save, this time from a stinging Fabregas effort. Hazard then produced a wonderful ball which flew across of the face of goal, but there was nobody able to apply the vital touch.

With eight minutes of the first half remaining we were appealing for a penalty after Diego Costa went down under the challenge of Sebastien Bassong, but the referee ruled there had been no foul and waved play on, a decision which didn’t go down well with the home supporters.

The game began to flow from one end to another in the closing stages of the half, and the visitors appeared destined to take the lead when a loose ball ran across the Chelsea penalty area into the path of Bassong who was denied by a superb Terry challenge as he prepared to shoot.

From the subsequent attack it was the Blues who should have gone in front after Kenedy, who was performing well at left-back, picked out Diego Costa inside the penalty area. The striker’s first touch let him down, but after working himself back in to a good position his strike was deflected behind.

Both managers resisted making any changes at half-time and it was the Blues on the front foot early in the second half.

Willian tested Ruddy with a free-kick from 25 yards out and then Zouma volleyed over the bar as he met a corner from the winger.

Hazard was enjoying a fine game and looked dangerous every time he was on the ball, but we were still searching for the crucial breakthrough.

Norwich were defending with nine men behind the ball when we were in possession, leaving just Mbokani up front alone, and while our creative players were doing their best to find a killer pass, the visitors were proving difficult to penetrate.

As the hour mark approached Matic decided to take matters into his own hands and went for goal from distance, but the strike was always rising and flew over the bar.

Hazard, a constant threat, then fizzed another teasing ball across goal having been released by Willian but again Diego Costa wasn’t far forward enough to make a connection. After 63 minutes, however, we finally got the goal our play had merited.

Fabregas clipped a free-kick over the top of a static Norwich defence and Diego Costa raced on to it. After bringing the ball under control the striker smartly turned back inside his marker and produced a brilliant finish, curling his strike beyond Ruddy into the far corner.

It was Diego Costa‘s third Premier League goal of the season, and he couldn’t have timed it any better.

Moments later we almost extended our advantage when Zouma stole in to meet a Willian free-kick, only to see his volley thump the bar and bounce over.

Norwich manager Alex Neil made a triple substitution with 19 minutes remaining, introducing Wes Hoolahan, Graham Dorrans and Cameron Jerome into the action as they chased a leveller.

Pedro fired a whisker wide of the upright from an angle as we looked to put the game out of Norwich’s reach, but with only one goal between the teams they remained very much in the contest.

With five minutes remaining Matic, who had been impressive throughout, almost sealed the victory with a stunning solo goal. The Serbian picked the ball up roughly 30 yards from goal and eased away from three defensive challenges, only to be denied by a Ruddy save at the near post.

Both Oscar and Ramires were introduced for the closing part of the match, Pedro and Willian the players making way, and with less than two minutes left on the clock Mourinho made his final change as Cesar Azpilicueta replaced Hazard.

We were forced to defend a couple of high balls into the box during added time but Begovic was never seriously tested, and the Blues held on for a crucial win.

We now face two away games, with the Champions League fixture against Maccabi Tel Aviv on Tuesday preceding next Sunday’s test at Tottenham.


- Match stats:

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry (c), Kenedy; Fabregas, Matic; Willian (Ramires 86), Hazard ( Azpilicueta 89), Pedro (Oscar 82); Diego Costa.

Unused substitutes: Blackman, Cahill, Traore, Remy .
Scorer Diego Costa 63
Booked Willian 34

Norwich City (4-4-2): Ruddy; Wisdom, Bennett, Bassong, Olsson; Howson (Hoolahan 71), Mulumbu (Dorrans 71), O’Neil (c), Brady; Redmond, Mbokani (Jerome 71).

Unused substitutes: Rudd, Whittaker, Lafferty, Odjidja.
Booked Mulumbu 30, O’Neill 46, Bassong 60, Olsson 68
Referee Craig Pawson
Crowd 41,582

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