Chelsea were far from their best at Stamford Bridge on Saturday but claimed a 3-1 victory over ten man Norwich. Jose Bosingwa opened the scoring for Chelsea with a great strike, before Grant Holt made the most of slack Chelsea defending to equalise. A Frank Lampard penalty and a late debut goal for Juan Mata helped Chelsea to claim the three points.
Chelsea threatened to run away with the match in the opening fifteen minutes, dominating possession and refusing to allow Norwich any time on the ball. The Pensioners had a couple of shots from Ramires and Torres before Bosingwa gave Chelsea the lead in the 6th minute.
Frank Lampard passed to Bosingwa outside the box. Nobody closed down the full back, who unleashed a brilliant shot that flew past Ruddy into the left hand corner of the Norwich net.
Chelsea failed to build on their early momentum, however. The Blues amassed 67 per cent of possession, but their play lacked any sort of creativity or incision.
Norwich grasped the opportunity to grab a foothold in the match. The Canaries’ first chance came in the 16th minute, when a clever forward chip found Grant Holt who had ghosted in behind the Chelsea defence. The striker tried to flick the ball into the net when he had time to control the ball before shooting.
Chris Martin then got behind the Chelsea defence in the 27th minute. The Norwich man should have done better once one-on-one with the Chelsea keeper, but Hilario made a decent save. Martin then worked the ball out to Kyle Naughton, whose shot was pushed over by the Portuguese stopper.
It was the first time Villas-Boas had started with both Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres and neither player did much to convince their manager that they can form a potent partnership. Didier Drogba was slightly better than his Spanish counterpart and almost set up Torres with a few through balls.
Torres’ best chance arguably came when he received the ball at the edge of Norwich area with one defender to beat. The Torres of old would have beaten the defender and applied an accomplished finish. But with the Spaniard lacking confidence, he hesitated and was dispossessed.
Chelsea had three free kicks in dangerous positions during the first half, but Drogba and Lampard wasted the first two with dreadful efforts. The third free kick went just over from Drogba.
Chelsea started the second half slightly better, but the Blues were still failing to create many chances. Terry’s powerful header in the 50th minute was their best opportunity in the early part of the second half, but his effort was cleared by Pilkington.
Norwich equalised in the 63rd minute after a mix up between Branislav Ivanovic and Hilario. A cross seemed to be safely drifting on to Ivanovic’s head at the edge of the box. Hilario inexplicably decided to come for the ball and collided with his defender. The ball dropped to Grant Holt, who hooked the ball over John Terry for the equalising goal. Holt applied a good finish, but it was calamitous keeping from Hilario.
Then came a worrying moment for Didier Drogba as the Ivorian had to leave the field on a stretcher. Ruddy came out to punch a cross but his fists instead connected with Drogba’s head. The Ivorian looked like he was unconscious before he landed nastily on the ground. Drogba received treatment for eight minutes before being replaced by Nicolas Anelka.
Juan Mata also came on to make his debut and the winger helped inject some creativity and a sense of urgency into Chelsea’s play. Shortly after coming on, Mata beat his defender and crossed to Torres, who got a header on target but failed to worry Ruddy.
It was Norwich who almost took the lead in the 73rd minute, however. A long ball somehow found Morison behind the Chelsea defence just over the halfway line. The Norwich player ran in on goal but John Terry recovered to dispossess Morison with a sliding tackle in the Chelsea box. Minutes later Mikel inadvisably headed backwards to Morison, who was behind the Chelsea defence again. His cross was cleared for a corner, however.
The match then changed completely in the 80th minute. Nicloas Anelka played a through ball to Ramires, who was sprinting through the Norwich defence. The Brazilian momentarily let the ball run away from him, but he stretched to reach the ball before Ruddy, who collided with Ramires. A penalty was justly awarded and Ruddy was somewhat harshly sent off given Ramires was unlikely to reach the ball. Frank Lampard dispatched the penalty down the middle past substitute keeper Declan Rudd.
Romelu Lukaku then came on for Torres to make his debut and the Belgian was one of Chelsea’s better performers in the closing stages.
Chelsea continued their lackadaisical defending, however. A free kick found Morison unmarked at the back post. The Norwich man should have squared the ball to Holt but instead hit a tame shot wide.
Eleven minutes of injury time were added after Drogba’s injury, which gave Norwich a chance to mount a comeback. Chelsea made all the chances in the closing period, however.
Ivanovic should have strengthened Chelsea’s advantage in the 90th minute. A Lampard cross found Ivanovic unmarked six yards from goal, but the defender somehow headed wide.
Lukaku then hit a weak shot which was spilled by Rudd. Lampard looked to have an easy finish, but Rudd recovered to save Lampard’s shot.
Juan Mata then sealed the victory for Chelsea with a debut goal in the 100th minute. Ritchie De laet played a bad ball towards his goal without looking and Mata collected the ball. The Spaniard took a couple of steps forward and applied a quality finish into the left hand corner of Rudd’s goal.
Chelsea will be delighted to have made it seven points from their opening three games. Questions remain over the level of performance, however, and the Blues have much to prove in the coming weeks. Norwich battled well and can feel slightly unlucky to have been beaten.