Chelsea’s Premier League title hopes were practically ended after a tense goalless draw with Norwich, who themselves are now all but relegated. However, third place in the league and the Champions League group stage is now near-as guaranteed for the Blues.
The draw was practically the worst result for either side, who knew three points would do their respective aims of the world of good. Chelsea were aiming to go top of the league with one game to play, while Norwich knew a shock win would give them a real chance of staying in it next season.
The hosts made five changes from the side that lost to Atletico Madrid in midweek – Nemanja Matic and Lampard came in as midfield anchors replacing David Luiz and Ramires, Mo Salah and Andre Schurrle replaced Eden Hazard and Cesar Azpilicueta on the wings and Demba Ba came in up front for Fernando Torres.
Neil Adams’ Norwich side made three changes from the side who were thumped by Manchester United last weekend, with Alex Tettey, Johan Elmander and Ryan Bennett coming in for Leroy Fer, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and Nathan Redmond.
The game didn’t have to wait long for the first chance, with Andre Schurrle firing straight at visiting keeper John Ruddy in the third minute.
However, chances were at a premium for long spells of the first half. Martin Olsson had a decent penalty claim denied for the visitors on their first foray into Chelsea’s penalty area, when first Ashley Cole and then John Terry brought him down. Referee Neil Swarbrick deemed there to be no foul, and so play continued.
Chelsea had a chance on the 15-minute mark, as a fortunate ricochet from a Canaries clearance left Demba Ba free, who instead of shooting attempted to play in Andre Schurrle, with the cross snuffed out by Ruddy.
A long spell of Chelsea followed soon after, with a lack of clear chances for the hosts – a sentence that could easily sum up Chelsea’s performance over the game, and indeed best parts of the season.
John Terry had a good chance from a corner, Schurrle’s whipped ball in could only be directed into the grateful hands of Ruddy.
On the half hour mark came the best chance for Chelsea to take the lead. A superbly-weighted ball from Matic put Schurrle through and who cut in and curled his effort off the post.
Two more poor efforts followed from Chelsea, one from Ashley Cole after crowd encouragement from 30 yards, and Willian – who made good space for himself before swinging wildly, the ball heading out near the corner flag from his central shot.
A familiar story then for Chelsea at half time, as they went in goalless. Norwich defended stoutly and made things difficult and were good value for their point.
Mourinho switched things up at half-time, with the introduction of Eden Hazard for the largely-anonymous Salah, and David Luiz on for Frank Lampard.
The Chelsea faithful did not have to wait long for the substitutions to make an impact. Hazard and Ivanovic linked up nicely to feed David Luiz, who smacked a shot off the underside of the bar just two minutes into the second half.
Chelsea had a penalty shout of their own five minutes later, as Alex Tettey appeared to bring down Schurrle, who was a handful all afternoon for the relegation-threatened visitors. Three minutes later there was an even clearer shout, when Ryan Bennett swung wildly at Eden Hazard making no contact with the ball, but referee neglected the shouts of some 40,000+ Chelsea fans and did not point to the spot.
Hazard’s introduction raised both the tempo and atmosphere, which truth be told was rather flat – surprising perhaps seeing how the game was so important to both teams. The Belgian brought much more cut and thrust to the waves of blue shirts attacking, and it felt that a goal was imminent whenever the tricky winger had the ball at his feet.
However, it was Norwich who had the next chance to open the scoring. Nathan Redmond, on for Elmander, played Robert Snodgrass through, who would have scored were it not for a perfectly-timed block from Gary Cahill.
Mourinho brought on Fernando Torres for Matic in an effort to break the scoring, but could not help as Norwich continued to defend heroically. The Spaniard’s only telling contribution to the afternoon was shanking horribly over after Hazard forced a good save from Ruddy, after some neat footwork to free himself on the edge of the area.
It was to be last real chance for the hosts, though Norwich did have a late chance to score – a tame header from Bradley Johnson giving Mark Schwarzer his only real save to make in stoppage time.
The draw means Norwich will need a minor miracle to avoid the Championship – they require Sunderland to pick up no more points from their remaining two games, while needing a 13-goal swing and beating Arsenal at the Emirates next Sunday.
For Chelsea, the title dream is practically over, with a Liverpool win Monday night at Crystal Palace confirming it, likely meaning Chelsea’s season finale at already-down Cardiff next week will be a dead rubber. If you want to see the latest Premier League title and relegation odds you can do so at the Allpro sportsbook web site.