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    Chelsea 1 - 0 Norwich City


    Jose Mourinho has found himself under immense pressure in recent weeks and as his side lined up to take on struggling Norwich City, even 'The Special One' must have felt only a victory would be an acceptable result.

    Chelsea went into the game on the back of three straight league defeats, adding to seven losses in their opening twelve Premier League matches. Cesc Fabregas returned to the starting eleven after speculation accused him of leading a revolt against Mourinho. Branislav Ivanovic returned from injury and Kenedy made a surprise appearance at left-back with Ramires, Azpilicueta and Baba Rahman dropping out.

    Norwich ended a terrible run of four straight defeats and six games without a win when they beat Swansea City before the international break. Dieumerci Mbokani, Nathan Redmond and Youssouf Mulumbu replaced Cameron Jerome, Wes Hoolahan and Alex Tettey as the visitors seeked to turn around a run of just one draw in their last seven trips to Stamford Bridge.


    Despite their poor start to the season, many would expect Chelsea to dominate possession and that is exactly what they did in the opening exchanges, with Norwich flooding the midfield pinning their hopes on the speed of their counter-attacks. The visitors forced a couple of early corners, but Cesc Fabregas was presented with the first opportunity from an Eden Hazard cut back, only to drive the ball high and wide under pressure from the Norwich defence. The hosts continued to build pressure and John Terry nearly broke the deadlock when he flicked a corner wide with a touch that brought back memories of Gianfranco Zola for the home fans. Norwich's best outlet was proving to be Nathan Redmond who was finding space with ease against an out of position Kenedy. In typical Redmond fashion, the winger hit a driven shot from an angle only to see Asmir Begovic parry the ball away. Moments later, the dangerous Willian hit a similar effort with the same outcome as John Ruddy made the save.

    Alex Neil would have been aware that his team could not sit back for the whole game and the visitors created another opportunity midway through the first half when Dieumerci Mbokani hit a shot from the edge of the box over the bar. Spain stars Pedro and Diego Costa responded with efforts that also ended off target as the game continued to open up. Chelsea began to turn the screw and Fabregas forced another save from Ruddy on the half hour mark. Neither side wanted to concede before the break and both John Terry and John Ruddy pulled off heroic blocks to thwart Sebastian Bassong and Diego Costa at either end. 0-0 at half-time, Jose Mourinho arguably had one of the most important team talks of his career at the break.


    Chelsea came out with intent after the interval and Willian hit an early free-kick straight into Ruddy's grateful arms. Kurt Zouma had a good opportunity with a volley from a corner as he found space but the defender could only fire over. Eden Hazard was consistently getting to the byline but nobody was meeting his crosses, whilst Fabregas and Matic resorted to long range shots as the home crowd began to get frustrated. It was going to take something special to break a stubborn Norwich defence and Fabregas was the man who created that opportunity on the hour mark. The Spainiard found his fellow native Diego Costa with a quick free-kick before the striker cut inside and fired a low shot past John Ruddy to give Chelsea an important lead. The partnership that worked so well last season had come good at a crucial time.

    The home side had already thrown away eight points from winning positions this season and pressed for a second to put the game to bed. Zouma went close as he flicked a Willian free-kick onto the crossbar. Yet Norwich were not going down without a fight and Robbie Brady forced Begovic into a fantastic stretching save from 25 yards. With 20 minutes remaining, Alex Neil brought on Hoolahan, Dorrans and Jerome for Mulumbu, Mbokani and Howson in an attempt to save the game. The substitutes struggled to make an impact and it was in fact Chelsea who went closest in the final moments. Pedro hit a shot just wide and Nemanja Matic was kept out by John Ruddy after a mazy dribble, but it did not matter to the London club who held out for just a fourth victory of the season.


    A crucial victory for Chelsea meant they leapfrogged Norwich into 15th place before a visit to Tottenham Hotspur next Sunday. Mourinho will certainly hope the result can help build momentum for the rest of he campaign. Norwich have another difficult test as they host Arsenal, although the Gunners did lose 2-1 at West Bromwich Albion this weekend. 

    Chris Lincoln's Man of the Match: Eden Hazard
    The Belgian winger is beginning to regain his form of last season and caused the Norwich defence problems all day long, proving the difference in ability between the two teams. Chelsea will shoot up the league when this man hits top gear again.
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    Item Reviewed: Chelsea 1 - 0 Norwich City Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Chris Lincoln
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