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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
21 January 2012
• Carrow Road, Norwich, Norfolk
Referee: M. Clattenburg
• Attendance: 26792
It may have been a goalless game but it was an exciting one nonetheless. Stick around on Goal.com for coverage of more Saturday football action but I'm finished for today. Thanks to all of you who stayed with me in this LIVE! commentary and even those of you who popped by for a cheeky sneak peek.
90' + 4'
Full-time whistle! The game finishes Norwich City 0-0 Chelsea. A superb allr-ound performance from the promoted side who continue to prove they deserve a spot in the top flight. The Blues will rue wasted opportunities and attention will no doubt fall on the poor miss from Fernando Torres early in the second half.
90' + 3'
Chelsea look destined the be frustrated as the seconds wind down.
Three minutes of stoppage time at Carrow Road. Sturridge whips a cross in from the left but the ball is cleared, albeit not very far. Malouda latches onto the loose ball and fires one of the most awful attempts at goal from outside the box I've ever witnessed. If the goal was hovering 30 foot in the air and above the corner flag it might have just gone over.
Malouda has a shot from just outside the Norwich area, which takes a deflection and it's a Chelsea corner. From the set-piece the Blues cannot force a save from Ruddy as the mass of bodies prevent Malouda from getting his shot into the back of the net.
Ashley Cole has an ambitious volleyed attempt from 25 yards out in front of goal but the England international sees his bobbling shot bounce wide right of the Canaries goal.
More from Goal.com's man at Carrow Road, George Ankers: "Are we finally going to see a clean sheet for Norwich? That was just about the last thing anyone expected today but John Ruddy has continually denied Mata in particular to set up what looks set to be a great result for the Canaries."
It's Chelsea who are pressing as the clock ticks towards 90 minutes. Norwich seem to be happy to accept a draw and are defending brilliantly as the Blues pour players forward.
Mata has yet another close attempt on goal, this time from the right side of the Norwich box. The 23-year-old's low effort is tipped wide excellently by Ruddy but the referee doesn't see the save and gives a goal-kick.
Lukaku has his first impact of the match, barraging down the right wing past numerous challenges, but his final ball once inside the box is poor.
This game is going substitute crazy at the moment. Norwich bring off David Fox for Andrew Crofts, while Steve Morison is removed in place of Simeon Jackson. Chelsea make another quick change: Michael Essien comes on in place of Raul Meireles for the last 10 minutes or so.
It is Torres who comes off the pitch for Lukaku. The £50 million man has not scored in 15 successive matches now, his worst record in English football career.
Norwich and Chelsea are mirroring each other at the moment - both sides are marauding forwards before either losing the ball or shooting wayward, before the other team does the same.
Romelu Lukaku, everybody's favourite Football Manager signing before his move to Chelsea, looks set to make an appearance soon. Villas-Boas is currently giving the Belgian orders by the Chelsea bench. Will Torres be the player brought off? Or will Sturridge or Mata be the player sacrificed at the young forward's expense?
The home fans react angrily when a free-kick is given to Chelsea inside the away side's box after an on-the-ball tussle between Torres and Morison goes in the Blues' favour.
Malouda brings the ball away on the break after a Norwich corner but, after a one-two with Torres, Sturridge is unable to slot the ex-Atletico Madrid man through on goal.
Remember that Torres miss a few minutes ago? Chelsea fans aren't likely to forget such an agonising attemot on goal and our reporter at Carrow Road, George Ankers, hasn't forgotten it either: "Just when you think Fernando Torres may be figuring things out at last... the £50m man has been energetic enough in this match but he simply appears to have a seemingly-unshakeable case of what golfers call 'the yips' in front of goal. It's all Chelsea at the moment but with Norwich countering as they have done, that could well prove a pivotal miss."
At the other end, Pilkington whips a high ball in from 40 yards out on the right, but Cech steams out his goal to catch the ball and alleviate any danger on the Chelsea goal.
Mata whips in a corner from the left and Malouda attempts to scissor kick his cross into the back of the net, but his bouncing effort is straight at Ruddy, who holds to ball before clearing.
The first 20 minutes since half-time have been entertaining stuff. The game still lacks the spark that a goal would bring, and although Chelsea look to more likely to score of the two sides at the moment Norwich are hardly out of the match and continue to probe the Blues' defensive line.
A Ruddy good save from the Norwich keeper, who gets down to his right to save Mata's low shot from 10 yards out inside the left half of the area.
I genuinely just cringed. Torres receives the ball in front of goal but the Spanish striker somehow, SOMEHOW shoots wide to the right of the target. Andre Villas-Boas is the personification of fury on the sidelines. The home fans merrily jeer the former Liverpool forward who looks gutted with his woeful miss.
It's everybody's favourite Carrow Road reporter, George Ankers, who gives his thoughts on the early exchanges in the second half: "It's a case of 'as you were' at Carrow Road as we get back underway. Chelsea are largely in charge of the ball but Norwich are still carrying that nagging threat. Anthony Pilkington has tried more than one shot cutting in from the right today and Grant Holt is causing problems as well. It's in the balance."
Chelsea switch the ball from right to left and Mata calmly slots the ball through the host's back line, but Torres cannot get to the ball before Norwich goalkeeper Paul Ruddy.
Ever since I mentioned that it had been all Norwich since the second half began, the Canaries have barely seen a glimpse of possession. Apologies Norwich fans, I guess it's the curse of the LIVE! commentator.
Malouda has the ball just inside the Norwich box but despite a run from Torres the Frenchman chooses to backtrack out of the area. He taps the ball to the lurking David Luiz who hits it with his left foot a foot over the bar.
Chelsea have largely been on the back foot since play resumed five minutes ago. A lovely first touch in defence by Juan Mata but the Spain international undoes the nifty trickery will a poor pass out of play.
Anthony Pilkington does magnificently to get the better of Chelsea and England captain John Terry, lobbing the ball over the rushing defender on the right flank but his left-footed shot from inside the edge of the box is high, wide and not remotely handsome.
Norwich get the match back underway at Carrow Road, although Chelsea immediately claim the ball back as their own. Fun fact: there wasn't a single foul in the first half from either side.
How does the Premier League table look if the scores remain the same, I hear you cry. Well, boringly, Chelsea will remain in fourth and Norwich City will stay in ninth. If the Canaries take three points from the match, however, they will propel themselves up a place into eighth. A win for the Blues won't see them climb the table, but it will close the gap butween Villas-Boas' men and league leaders Manchester City, as well as the chasing pack of Manchester United and Tottenham.
Torres has gradually etched himself into the game, while Mata has become more intimidating as the game has gone on. Lampard will doubtlessly be gutted to have been forced off with a calf injury a third of the way into the clash, but the midfielder's withdrawal has opened up the play a lot more. Sturridge has hardly been anonymous in attack but the young forward will be eager to get his name on the scoresheet in the second-half.
What are your opinions on this Chelsea match? Will the Blues be disappointed they are not ahead at half-time? Or should they be more relieved that Canaries forwards Holt and Morison have not put a goal past the fourth-placed side?
Don't go thinking I've forgotten about Goal.com's reporter at the Norwich ground: "Half-time at Carrow Road and Chelsea will probably feel that they should be ahead, particularly after that late flurry. Juan Mata arguably should have found a better finish to go with that thrilling run but 0-0 it is. Not a thriller yet, but excitement enough at both ends."
45' + 2'
And that's half-time. A 45 minutes that Norwich ought to be proud of, having had ample opportunities and having suppressed the Chelsea threat for large portions of the game. Andre Villas-Boas will be disappointed that the Blues have not been the force they ought to be as Champions League contenders, but the score remains 0-0 and there is plenty of time yet for either side to seize the match as their own.
45' + 1'
Torres breaks through the offside trap on the right but his cross to Malouda is intercepted as the French attacker takes too long is preparing to shoot.
Mata is slotted through by Malouda, takes a touch to take the ball into the box, then fires high and over the opposition crossbar. The Spaniard needs to be more accurate if Chelsea are to take the lead.
Raul Meireles has a shot from 25 yards or so out but Ruddy saves comfortably.
More detail from George Ankers from Carrow Road: "Things seem to be picking up now. Frank Lampard's injury, while not convenient for Andre Villas-Boas, has at least given him an excuse to shake things up, and Florent Malouda has already shown signs of greater penetration, threading Juan Mata through at close range. Both John Ruddy and Petr Cech have had to take action in recent minutes and the two shot-stoppers have responded admirably."
This game is starting to develop some zip: the ball is fired back towards the Norwich end of the pitch and Juan Mata forces a low save from the Canaries keeper with an effort from the left side of the box.
Immediately, at the other end of the pitch, Cech has to bat away a menacing cross from Grant Holt, who gets the better of England left-back Ashley Cole.
Torres wiggles his way down the middle of the pitch into the final third, before a slide tackle sends tha ball over to Chelsea' right flank. Sturridge whips the ball into the box bu the rushing Torres cannot get to the ball before Ruddy claims it as his own.
Florent Malouda is brought on belatedly for the injured Lampard.
More words of wisdom from Goal.com's reporter at the match, George Ankers: "What seemed like a purposeful start has drifted very disappointingly for Chelsea. Juan Mata has come into a central position to try to conjure something but it's very limp in the final third, Daniel Sturridge in particular guilty of wasting possession from promising areas. Norwich are attacking with more potency, Grant Holt throwing his weight around in amongst the back line. The home fans are in good voice, unafraid of what they've seen of the wealthy hosts so far."
Frank Lampard, who has alluded attention by starting for Chelsea today, looks like he will have to come off with an injury. Torres is being given instructions by Blues manager Villas-Boas in the break of play as the England midfielder makes his way off the pitch.
Pilkington does well to bombard his way down the right wing before whipping a high ball towards Holt at the back post. The striker gets a good header goalbound but Petr Cech raises his hands and catches the lofty effort with ease.
A lull is opportunities in the past few minutes as both teams try and negotiate a way around the tight defences on show at Carrow Road.
The corner ball finds its way to Sturridge at the back post, but the striker hammers his attempt on goal well wide.
Torres has a chance at the other end not long after, cleverly clipping the ball past his marker on the edge of the box, the left-footed shot being tipped wide by the outstretched Paul Ruddy for a corner.
David Luiz does what can only be described as a dance out the box when the ball is whipped in by Andrew Surman towards Grant Holt, dribbling the ball out of danger.
Mata crosses after weaving his way down the left flank but his ball is slightly too high for the leaping Sturridge and Norwich are back in control of the ball.
Holt powers down the left diagonally towards goal, but his head-height cross is headed out towards Pilkington on the right. Torres gets back and slides the Norwich midfielder excellently to put the ball out for a Norwich throw-in. Good defensive work from the World Cup winning striker.
Another snippet from George Ankers, who is at Carrow Road for Goal.com: "Norwich are giving the ball away too often in midfield and Chelsea are getting particular joy down the right wing with Daniel Sturridge powering past Kyle Naughton with regularity. It's finding the opportunity in the box that is proving the problem, with Zak Whitbread making several good interceptions so far to break attacks down."
Steve Morison runs down the right and has an effort at goal from just inside the box that goes wide of the Chelsea goal.
Both sides look incredibly organised, and subsequently both sides are struggling to break down each other. Chelsea are seeing a bit more of the ball now, with Chelsea captain John Terry being given a lot of stick from the home fans.
Norwich have had hold of possession for a good couple of minutes now - Chelsea look reluctant to press their opponents too heavily and as a result the home side have plenty of time and space to carve out passes.
Torres looks a little uncomfortable on the ball this time, being put through to the right of goal by Chelsea winger Juan Mata but stumbling a little before failing to cut the ball back to a team-mate once he reaches the byeline.
More comment from our man at Carrow Road, George Ankers: "It looks like Norwich are setting themselves up on the counter, using the space created by Sturridge and Mata drifting in from the flanks to break with their full-backs. On one such move from the right-back area, Grant Holt and Steve Morison combine with a fantastically precise understanding and forge the best chance of the match so far."
Another Norwich chance: Morison slots Holt in down the middle and the striker cuts inside with a tidy right-footed first touch, before powering a low shot with his left marginally wide of Cech's left upright.
Fernando Torres is seeing glimpses of the ball but not enough to give him a proper chance on goal. Norwich are taking the match to Chelsea, forcing them into one or two mistakes. Canaries boss Paul Lambert barks orders on the sideline, while Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas sits deep in conversation with assistant Roberto Di Matteo.
Steve Morison puts Anthony Pilkington through down the right and the winger slides the ball into the box at a pace, with Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech parrying it away from goal. Morison, who instigated the move, manages to get onto the rebound but Ramires successfully puts the Welshman off and it goes out for a goal-kick to the visitors.
It's true, Chelsea have been by far the more dominant of the two teams. The Canaries are battling for control of the ball though and they are hardly rolling over and accepting Chelsea's early dominance.
Goal.com's man at the match, George Ankers, gives his thoughts on the early moments: "Chelsea have immediately assumed control of the ball in the opening stages with Raul Meireles apparently setting himself up as the pivot in the centre of midfield. They've started by aiming lobbed passes over the defence in search of first Fernando Torres and then Daniel Sturridge. Norwich have barely had a touch."
Chelsea get us underway at Carrow Road.
So how has 2012 fared for these two Premier League clubs? Well both have a 100% record and you can be sure that at least one of the teams will have lost it come the end of the game. Norwich have beaten West Bromwich Albion and QPR away from home in league fixtures, and Burnley at Carrow Road in the FA Cup third-round. Chelsea put Portsmouth to the sword in their FA Cup match, while in the top flight they have beaten Sunderland and Wolves.
Both managers have been talking up their strikers ahead of what I’m fondly labelling The Carrow Road Clash. Villas-Boas said of Torres: “It hurts everybody in the sense of goal statistics but he's doing tremendously for the team. He's a striker with a hunger for goals and we've seen him arrive and create danger. As long as he's working well for the team, I don't care how the statistics will finish and how dramatic people think they are.” Meanwhile Lambert praised Grant Holt, saying: “If you are talking value for money, Grant has been phenomenal for this club for £400,000. People look at £400,000 and think it’s nothing, but to some clubs it’s a hell of a lot of money.”
One or two of you might be wondering where the Blues forwards Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou are, to which I would direct you towards the African Cup of Nations tournament which kicks off today actually. The Ivory Coast internationals will be away for a good few matches yet, until the country is either knocked out of the continental competition or win it (the final is February 12). Norwich, on the other hand, are fortunate not to have the problem of absent African players.
Not even a whiff of brand spanking new January signing Gary Cahill on the pitch or the bench, with Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas only making one change to last weekend’s side: forward Daniel Sturridge replacing defensive midfielder Oriol Romeu. Michael Essien, who came on for a 15 minute cameo in last Saturday’s 1-0 win at home to Sunderland, continues the slow rehabilitation into the team after his long lay-off with injury. Fernando Torres has been starting to show why he might be worth a portion of the £50 million Chelsea paid for him lately and he starts up front in the chosen 4-3-3 formation.
We’ll start off with the Norwich team: a simple 4-4-2 chosen by manager Paul Lambert, with Steve Morison and club captain Grant Holt up front. Wes Hoolahan starts the match on the bench for the Canaries, with wide players Anthony Pilkington and Andrew Surman given the nod.
CHELSEA: Cech; Bosingwa, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Lampard, Meireles; Sturridge, Torres, Mata. SUBS: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Essien, Romeu, Malouda, Lukaku, Bertrand.
NORWICH: Ruddy; R Martin, Ayala, Whitbread, Naughton; Pilkington, Johnson, Fox, Surman; Holt, Morison. SUBS: Steer, Drury, Crofts, Jackson, Hoolahan, Bennett, Wilbraham
Howdy all and welcome to Goal.com’s LIVE! coverage of Norwich City v Chelsea which I, Miles Chambers, will guide you through. The game will kick-off a bumper Saturday of Premier League action, with seven more matches to follow later today. The line-ups have been announced for the Carrow Road clash and they’re coming right up...
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