Superior class and quality of players proved the difference as Chelsea defeated an extremely game Norwich City side by the score of 3-1. A debut goal from Juan Mata, Chelsea’s latest signing, gave the hosts the final two-goal margin, though the moment was overshadowed by a potentially serious head injury to Didier Drogba.
Things started well for the Blues and Andre Villas-Boas latest attempt to show that Drogba and Fernando Torres could be partnered in attack. Norwich showed a few
nerves early on and just five minutes into the match, Jose Bosingwa picked up a pass from Frank Lampard in space and the right back thundered a 22 yard strike into the far corner of the net past Norwich keeper John Ruddy. Norwich could only blame their own nerves by sitting too deep and allowing the strike, but the Blues saw it as a sign of weakness and began to attack with fervor.
Norwich eventually settled down and scrapped the original plan of playing with three at the back, returning to a more familiar 4-4-2 diamond shape and the visitors
appeared much more comfortable. They should have equalised after 16 minutes when Kyle Naughton’s cross found Grant Holt in acres of space inside the box, but the striker could not connect with a flick and Hilario was able to make a comfortable save.
Norwich had another great chance at an equaliser as Wesley Hoolahan released Chris Martin through the center channel and the English striker found his initial save
stopped by Hilario. Martin recovered the rebound, but could not find support with Hilario stranded and shadowing him inside the 18-yard box. Eventually, Martin laid the ball back to Naughton whose rasping effort was tipped over the ball by the backpedalling Hilario.
Norwich found the breakthrough in the second half and always looked like they might. 63 minutes in, Branislav Ivanovic and Hilario had a mixup on long cross from
Naughton on the right. Hilario came to collect and collided with Ivanovic, who was attempting to head clear, and the ball fell to Grant Holt who hooked a shot into the net past the sprawling John Terry.
64 minutes into the game, Drogba tried to latch onto a cross from Lampard. In the aerial challenge with Norwich goalkeeper Ruddy, Drogba was inadvertently struck in the head by Ruddy’s attempts to punch clear and was left unconscious on the pitch. After seven minutes of treatment, the talismanic striker was stretchered off, apparently still With Drogba out, Villas-Boas rang in the changes, bringing on Nicolas Anelka
for the injured Drogba and handing Mata his debut for Florent Malouda. The move proved to be the correct one with Mata providing a much needed spark on the left side and his creativity nearly gave Chelsea the lead on 76 minutes.
Mata found space on the left with a great move and his cross found fellow Spaniard Fernando Torres in space, but Torres only headed the ball straight into Ruddy’s
Ramires provided the inspiration for the game-winning goal as he raced onto a brilliant ball from Nicolas Anelka from his own half. The Brazilian raced in clear on goal
and attempted to go around Ruddy when the Norwich keeper caught him and conceded a penalty, as well as earning himself a red card. Lampard scored the penalty by smashing it down the middle and the result was never in doubt from there.
Villas-Boas then handed a debut to Romelu Lukaku in place of Torres and the Chelsea fan took the pitch in front of the Stamford Bridge faithful for the first time.
Ivanovic nearly atoned for his early mistakes as Lampard found him unmarked in the six-yard box, though the Serbian defender missed the target. 10 minutes into stoppage time, Mata struck with his debut goal as Richie De Laet’s woeful backpass played in Mata and his unerringly side footed home his first goal for the club.
While Chelsea were nowhere near their best, eventually their superior class paid off. The scoreline may flatter a little as Norwich proved a very game opponent and
played some very good football in the latter stages of the first half and the beginning of the second half. If their supporters are treating these visits as one off for this year, they may need to change their plans if their team competes like this every week.