Chelsea return to winning ways with slender 1-0 victory against Norwich
Chelsea arrested a slump of three league defeats in a row with a shaky 1-0 win against Norwich.
Diego Costa’s 64th minute opener proved to be the winner in a match which Chelsea dominated with 65% possession, despite the fragile one-goal cushion always leaving tensions high until the last seconds.
In the end, Chelsea did see through the result with only their third clean sheet in the last 16 Premier League matches, and the win moves the Blues up to 15th place, having garnered a paltry 14 points from 13 matches so far.
Mourinho took his place back in the dug-out after sitting out the last league encounter against Stoke and once proceedings began, it was Chelsea who looked the brighter.
Costa found Hazard who pulled back the ball to Fabregas but the Spaniard was wayward with his shot.
Moments later, it was John Terry of all people, who attempted a neat back-heel flick towards goal but his intricate piece of skill found only the side-netting. It would have been a goal any striker would have been proud of.
Costa should have scored mid-way through the first half after neat work by Hazard, Fabregas and Pedro but the Spaniard was wasteful.
All the while, Norwich had their fair share of chances too. Redmond’s low drive was dealt with by Begovic but the warning signs were there, especially as Mbokani had time to get his shot away at Norwich’s next meaningful attempt.
Fabregas was denied by Ruddy and Hazard’s cross was inviting but invited no-one as Chelsea looked to end the half strongly. Perhaps Costa should have been a big stronger when in the box, rather than call in vain for a penalty.
But Norwich should have gone into the interval one-up. Startling amount of space was left for Bassong on the right to side-foot it into the bottom corner, but for Terry’s crucial block with the studs on his boots. It was a certain goal.
Would Chelsea wake up? It would need another 15 minutes of the second half, though.
Hazard was tracked all game and when he was fouled around the half-way line, Fabregas’ quick thinking in looping the ball to Costa was smart and Costa did the rest when one-on-one with Ruddy. It was only Fabregas’ second assist of the season when at this point last season he had 13, and Costa’s fourth goal of the season, in a partnership that worked so well last season.
Zouma was close to adding the insurance goal when he met Willian’s free-kick, but his touch rebounded off the crossbar.
Norwich piled forward after a triple substitution with 20 minutes to go, but Chelsea had their chances too with Pedro, and especially with Matic who was allowed to run past five Norwich defenders and could only find Ruddy’s right leg.
It was a match of Chelsea versus John Ruddy, but the 11 of Chelsea proved to be victorious in a match that was all about the points.
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Man of the Match
EDEN HAZARD: A return to some sort of decent performance for the Belgian, who excelled in this Number 10 role after a season spent on the wings, but a long way to go to find last season’s form consistently. Made some good runs and showed his pace and trickery, but we wait until Tuesday to see whether this was just a one-off or whether Hazard is finally kick-starting his season. 7/10
Mourinho understood the importance of the points, but was still dismayed: “The only thing we didn’t do was score more from the chances we had. We should have scored at least two and breathed easier.”
Neil was frustrated with one lapse in concentration: “I am disappointed. I thought our players worked really hard, I felt we gave Chelsea very little.”