The reigning European Champions burned off their very small and healthy Christmas dinners on Boxing Day this year, in the shape of a comfortable 1-0 victory over a lack luster Norwich side at Carrow Road.
The Blues barely needed to step out of second gear as they flexed their muscles and bossed the game. Norwich defended hard but apart from a couple of decent counter attacks, never really looked like threatening their oppositions goal until the last couple of minutes, where an ever reliable Ashley Cole was forced to do what he does best, a defensive clearance from inside the 6 yard box, this particular one however was going far too close to Cech’s goal for comfort. The resulting corner provided a last minute heart in mouth moment for Chelsea fans as Cech’s goal was once again threatened, with Sebastian Bassong heading just over the bar from close range.
Chelsea looked solid though and albeit for that illusive second, third, fourth and fifth goals, they looked very comfortable in what quite easily could have been a training match for them. With chances coming thick and thin for the Londoners, it could quite have easily been a similar score-line to the 8-0 drumming we witnessed as Stamford Bridge before Christmas, when the Blues embarrassed a very poor Aston Villa side. However, Norwich were better organised and held firm.
Juan Mata got the decisive goal close to half time, which was accompanied with ringing sigh’s of relief amongst the Chelsea bench and their supporters. The magical Spaniard received a tight pass from Oscar just outside the 18 yard box, surrounded by yellow shirts he somehow managed to pluck the ball out of his feet to curl it beautifully past a stranded Mark Bunn in the Norwich goal, who could do little about it.
After the game, Rafa Benitez sung his praises for his Spanish starlet, agreeing with the interviewer than Mata was certainly one of the best in the league. He was quoted as saying that Mata was one of those players ‘who can make a difference’.
Chelsea lined up with David Luiz in midfield and it once again proved to be a good decision with the Brazilian using his flair, skill and creativity to cause Norwich constant problems going forward. His reading of the game also proving useful a number of times as he broke down Norwich’s possession with a decent interception, to then release Juan Mata into a dangerous scoring position.
Frank Lampard made a cameo appearance from the bench, which was once again greeted by chants of ‘sign him up’. Benitez remains coy on Lampard’s future at Stamford Bridge and is adamant that the decision is out of his hands.
It was refreshing to see 17-year-old youth product, Nathan Ake make his first senior appearance for the club, when he came on late in the game. Ake is highly rated within the club and his versatility could prove to be vital for a squad that has looked thin all season.
Chelsea are comfortably sat in third place once again and are breathing heavily down Manchester City’s necks, especially after their surprise defeat to Sunderland yesterday. Benitez and Chelsea will feel it is all still very much to play for now and the Chelsea steam roller is picking up momentum once again.
Simon Phillips – News Editor
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