Chelsea go top of the league in what was yet another unconvincing and scrappy performance from The Blues. Andre Villas-Boas started Torres and Drogba up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation with Lampard supporting the strikers at the helm of the midfield. But it was a defender – Jose Bosingwa – he broke the deadlock after just five minutes, ripping the net with a 25-yard thunderbolt when he was not closed down quickly enough. The pace slowed and fans will be disappointed Chelsea did not continue after the early goal, Norwich got back into things and tested Chelsea. The momentum turned for a period to Norwich – Andre Villas-Boas knowing the longer it stayed at 1-0, and the longer we did not capitalise on our possession, Norwich will get back into things.
Into the second half, disaster. Hilario, rushing miles out of his goal, goes for the same ball which Ivanovic heads. The two collide and fall in a heap, with Grant Holt making a perfect execution to bring things back to level-pegging. Talking of falling in a heap, there was a very serious looking head injury to Didier Drogba. Going for a high ball, Drogba jumps and is punched in the head by Ruddy who completely misses the ball. Drogba, unconscious on impact, immediately falls in a heap and the landing was sickening. Seven minutes of time-out ensued, with Chelsea using that time to make two changes: Mata on for Malouda with Anelka eventually coming on for the stretchered-off Drogba. Mata looked promising, firing a fantastic ball to Ramires only for the latter’s control to let him down. Soon after, Ramires was felled in the box by Ruddy and a penalty and red card to the keeper followed, with back-up keeper Declan Rudd coming on to make his Premier League debut. And what a sight knowing your first task is to keep out a Frank Lampard thunderbolt down the centre, which he had no chance of stopping.
2-1 Chelsea and AVB looked to shore things up. Off went Torres, on went another debutant, Lukaku. But it was the Spanish debutant, Mata, who was causing more fuss, passing to Lampard who crossed only for Ivanovic to miss a glorious headed opportunity from five yards out. On another day, he would have scored hundreds of those. Still, Chelsea fan and Belgian international had a chance, slightly scuffing his shot but it still required a solid stop from Rudd; the rebound from Lampard was also saved.
Eleven stoppage-time minutes took place and at the end of them, one of the debutants scored. It was only a Mata of time for him to get Juan. Having looked so promising all match, Juan Mata capitalises on a poor back-pass and slots comfortably past Rudd, to become the first player to score on his debut as a substitute since George Weah in 2000. 3-1, game, set, match – top of the league, at least for now.
Another below-par Chelsea win, but another win. Andre Villas-Boas does not seem to quite know yet how to play Chelsea. Having started the previous two matches 4-3-3, he went to 4-4-2 today, with some players looking lost. That only changed when Mata and Anelka came on half-way through the second half, reverting to Chelsea’s accustomed 4-3-3.
Andre Villas-Boas knows he and Chelsea must improve if we are to see the attacking football his Porto displayed in the last campaign, but at the end of the day, it is the points you carry forward, and Chelsea have. A 3-1 scoreline flatters Chelsea, but no-one will care one bit.