It was the substitutes that did the business for Chelsea as late goals from Eden Hazard and Willian saw off a battling Norwich City side in a 3-1 win at Carrow Road.
Jose Mourinho’s side took an early lead through Oscar’s classy finish, but Norwich fought back and pulled level through Anthony Pilkington in the 68th minute.
The title chasers turned to their bench and Hazard’s scrappy strike was soon followed by Willian’s first Premier League goal to give Chelsea a valuable three points.
Chelsea were coming into the game with a mission of improving their away league record as they have failed to win any of their first three games away from Stamford Bridge. Meanwhile, Norwich were looking for an unlikely victory in their quest for survival.
The Blues had the perfect start to the game as they took their lead with their first attack in the fourth minute. Frank Lampard’s long pass was brought down with an excellent touch by Demba Ba and the striker picked out Oscar with a deft lay-off. The Brazilian chose not to take a touch as he arrowed the ball into the far corner with the outside of his foot from 20 yards. It was a superb finish and it was the first goal that Chelsea have scored from open play in the Premier League this season.
It was clear that the away side were the stronger team from the opening half an hour as they dominated possession and created chances at will. Juan Mata was pulling the strings for Chelsea and the Spaniard did well to slide the ball through for Ba, but the former Newcastle United striker was denied by a top-class fingertip save from John Ruddy. As good as the save was, Ruddy showed his weakness when he dropped a Lampard corner under no pressure but Sebastien Bassong was in the right place at the right time to block Ba’s goalbound effort when the ball dropped.
It wasn’t all one way though as Norwich forced Petr Cech into a great save in the 23rd minute. Steven Whittaker’s driven low cross nearly caused an own goal as the ball deflected goalwards off David Luiz, but Chelsea’s veteran shot-stopper made a good low save to keep his side in front. Just before half-time, Cech made another top save to keep out Bassong’s powerful volley from ten yards after Chelsea failed to defend a corner correctly.
Norwich were definitely still in the game and they managed to level the scores midway through the second half. Martin Olsson’s deep cross was well headed down by Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Pilkington beat Luiz to the ball as he nodded in from close range. It was a goal that the home side deserved as they had weathered the storm and proved a threat of their own.
As we headed into the final ten minutes, it was Norwich who looked more likely to nick a winner. Nathan Redmond had come off the bench to test Chelsea, but Cech made a good diving save to keep out the Englishman’s driven effort from 20 yards out. Unfortunately for Chris Hughton’s team, it was a comedy of errors that caused Chelsea to pull away with a win.
With just five minutes to go, Alex Tettey should have comfortably cleared Oscar’s pass but he failed to do so and Hazard nicked in to squeeze a shot under Ruddy from ten yards. It was a shot the goalkeeper should have saved and Hughton will be furious with his side’s defending at an important time in the game.
The goal rocked Norwich and Chelsea took advantage to seal the win with another strike just two minutes later. Willian has shown glimpse of the potential that saw Tottenham Hotspur battling for his signature in the summer, but it was a goal of real quality that killed off the game here. The Brazilian picked up the ball on the edge of the box and worked the ball onto his weaker left foot before curling into the top corner past the prone Ruddy who stood no chance.
With all three points, Chelsea have moved to within two points of the top of the league, but Norwich have dropped into the relegation zone after West Ham United picked up a shock win at Tottenham earlier in the day.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)