Chelsea record another hard-fought victory, with emphatic early strike from Jose Bosingwa, penalty by Frank Lampard and a debut goal for Mata earning Andre-Villas-Boas a reprieve
Jose Bosingwa opened the scoring with a classy strike from distance before a Hilario clanger gifted Grant Holt an equaliser.
From there Chelsea pushed on and were probably deserving of the victory after Frank Lampard netted from the spot after Ramires was sent sprawling by John Ruddy, with Juan Mata putting the icing on the cake deep into stoppage time.
With Chelsea’s vast improvement in the second half of the West Brom game evidently in mind, Andre Villas-Boas opted to shift to a 4-4-2 for the visit of Norwich, with Fernando Torres partnering Didier Drogba up front.
Perhaps also casting a wry eye back to last week’s events at Stamford Bridge, Paul Lambert plumped for a five-man defence in order to quell the Blues – maybe hoping to force a recurrence of the home support’s tangible frustration at their side’s limited goal threat in today’s encounter.
Disappointingly, for the visitors, it was a ploy that showed little sign of immediate fruition. As early as two minutes in Ramires picked the ball up from 25 yards out and let rip with a right footed drive that John Ruddy did well to tip round the post after an awkward bounce.
The keeper had no such luck a few moments later, when Jose Bosingwa picked the ball up in a carbon-copy of the circumstances as no-one came to shut him down and let fly with an unstoppable drive into the top corner of the net.
After Chelsea’s rampant opening, a sense of balance was soon restored as the Canaries began to impose themselves on the game. The bullish Grant Holt, believing himself to be offside, flicked his ankle at Wes Hoolahan’s long ball and missed, when any sort of contact would have carried the ball beyond Hilario.
The relative ease with which that chance came about appeared to galvanise Norwich, who pushed onwards and were twice unlucky not to put the ball in the net in one flowing counter-attack. Hoolahan released Chris Martin down the right flank and after cutting inside, the striker was thwarted by Hilario, who then did well to palm away Kyle Naughton’s follow-up.
Acting upon his side’s impetus, Lambert decided to withdraw Zak Whitbread and bring on attacking midfielder Anthony Pilkington, to revert to a more familiar Canaries set-up. Though the change conversely effected Norwich’s dominatiopn as Chelsea ended the first half the stronger side, twice going close through a Drogba free-kick and Malouda half-volley from the edge of the area.
The home side began the second half in the same manner they ended the first and imposed themselves on Norwich right from the whistle.
Genuine craft was few and far between though, with Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres further stoking the argument that they are ill-suited to play together as Chelsea were largely limited to efforts on goal via set-piece plays – the most clear-cut of which was Branislav Ivanoci’s free header from a Lampard corner that he sent flying wide.
However, totally against the run of play, Norwich somehow found themselves netting the most unlikely of equalisers. A long ball pumped into the box caused the Chelsea rearguard all manner of difficulties as Hilario, caught in the middle of no man’s land, smashed into Ivanovic allowing Grant Holt to hook the ball into the vacant net.
A lengthy pause in play caused by a nasty looking injury to Drogba allowed the unlikeliness of the goal to sink in as new-signing Juan Mata and Nicolas Anelka came on for the hosts. The time taken to stretcher Drogba off the field took none of the impetus away for the visitors though, with substitute Steve Morison squandering a perfect opportunity to put the Canaries ahead, though his sluggish burst through on goal allowed Bosingwa recover to make the tackle.
The game swung violently from end to end as it entered its latter stages before Norwich suffered their third red card in three games, as Ruddy brought down Ramires after the Brazilian burst beyond the Norwich back four. Substitute keeper Declan Rudd was brought on but couldn’t perform the heroics required to deny Chelsea as Lampard struck his straight down the middle.
That moment proved to be the decisive, as Chelsea continued to take the game to Norwich, with debutant Mata coolly slotting home after cutting in from the left putting the icing on the cake for the hosts.