After scoring in the Carling Cup Final last week, Mateja Kezman repeated the dose today to help us win at Carrow Road thus cementing our place at the top of the Premiership. Earlier in the day a 0-0 score line between ten men Crystal Palace and Manchester United had given us the chance to go eight points clear this evening with a game in hand. This was duly taken, as goals by Joe Cole, Kezman and Ricardo Carvalho, his first for the club, gave us victory. Today’s game started a run of four against teams battling against relegation, with WBA, Crystal Palace and Southampton up and coming, the three points were vital. It now means that if we win seven of our remaining games then the Premiership title will come to Stamford Bridge for the first time in 50 years. With one piece of silverware safely locked away, it looks like the main prize will be added unless there is a major slip up between now and the end of the season.
After a tough and gruelling schedule within the last two weeks, a couple of changes were made to the team, with the injured William Gallas dropping out from the left back berth with Paulo Ferreira taking his place. At right back in came Glen Johnson and replacing Jiri Jarošik in midfield came Tiago. On paper, the game looked like it was going to be a stroll in the park for us, Norwich had come to Stamford Bridge last December only to be trounced 4-0, so a repeat result today was a possibility. Petr Cech’s goalkeeping record was also under scrutiny today, as we hadn’t conceded in 961 minutes before the start of this encounter. We almost took the lead as early as the eighth minute when a goal line clearance by Jason Shackell denied Damien Duff’s lob over Robert Green in the Canaries goal as Chelsea started to pressurise early on.
It didn’t take long before we took the lead however. In the 22nd minute Joe Cole scored his fifth of the season as he lost possession but won the ball back just outside the area, jinked over one tackle and slammed the ball into the top corner of the net. Although it was Joe’s fifth goal, all the others had come when he’d been a substitute, this was his first from a starting eleven position and a vital one at that. A few minutes later Joe almost had another chance, but this time the ball went wide from a Damien Duff cross. With Petr Cech’s record still intact at half time it left another 45 minutes to equal the English record of clean sheets.
The second half started in much the same way as the first, all the possession was with us, everything looked comfortable and it felt like we could and would get a second to finish Norwich off. This very nearly came in the 55th minute when a delightful curling ball by Frank Lampard found Didier Drogba with room in the area but his header went wide. However, a former Chelsea player always used to say, “Football’s a funny old game” with us fully in control a sudden lapse of concentration gave Norwich an equaliser. A Ball played by McKenzie found Huckerby out on the left, his cross found McKenzie who headed wide of Cech as the ball found the net. It was the first goal conceded by us in Premiership action for 1020 minutes or 11.33 hours. With the score 1-1 Mourinho made a couple of substitutions, off came Tiago for Kezman and Drogba was replaced by Eidur Gudjohnsen.
Norwich were level for just seven minutes, Delia must have wet herself with ecstasy at the thought of her boys levelling, but it was Jose and Mateja Kezman who had the last laugh. A ball by Joe Cole deflected off of a Norwich defender, the ball fell to Eidur who knocked the ball over to Frank Lampard, the ball was flicked by Lamps and past Robert Green but as the ball looked like it was going wide in came Kezza to bury the ball into an empty net. This was Kezza’s second Premiership goal of the season and the first from open play. His last goal was the penalty in the 4-0 demolition of Newcastle last December. Suddenly it all looked good again and we were back in full control. Then it was curtains for the Canaries. In the 78th minute we won a corner, Frank Lampard swung it in and with Carvalho unmarked he had the simplest of headers to bury the ball past Green. 1-3 and it was plain sailing. The travelling fans also had time to cheer every touch of the Chelsea ball as we played patiently at the end and as we played patiently the resounding cries of “We’re Gonna Win The League” and “Are You Watching Manchester” rang around Carrow Road. In the end, Jose had time to take Damien Duff off and bring on Jiri Jarošik as JT moved into midfield. JT had hurt his neck earlier so Jose didn’t want him to risk having to head too many dangerous balls played into our area. Another possible injury scare ahead of the Barcelona game is that of Claude Makelele, he fell awkwardly during the match. However, there was a boost as Jose Mourinho confirmed that Arjen Robben might play some part in the Barcelona game on Tuesday.
So, with ten games to go, it’s in our own hands, believe, it’s getting closer!
Norwich: Green, Edworthy, Flemming, Shackell, Drury, Stuart (McVeigh 75), Holt, Francis, Huckerby, McKenzie (Henderson 90), Ashton.
Subs Not Used: Safri, Charlton, Ward
Chelsea: Cech, Johnson, Carvalho, Terry, Ferreira, Makelele, Lampard, Tiago (Kezman 67), Cole, Drogba (Gudjohnsen 67, Duff (Jarošik 73)
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Huth
Referee: M Halsey.