Norwich City: Draw against Chelsea maintains survival, for now

Normally, this would be a great result.  On the back of an five-game losing streak, Norwich traveled to Chelsea, knowing that they needed to get a result in order to maintain their hopes of survival from relegation.  Unfortunately, because of Sunderland’s 1-0 win against Manchester United yesterday, a draw with Chelsea is not as good as it seems.  Yes, it prolongs Norwich’s survival, but if Sunderland win midweek against West Brom, then Norwich is doomed.  Norwich put in an extremely good performance and can be very proud of it, but the result was not good enough and they are likely going down.

In the first-half, Norwich defended really well. Michael Turner was commanding and the entire team maintained a great shape.  Every time a Chelsea player got the ball, a Norwich player was there to apply pressure.  Neil Adams set the team out in a 5-3-2, with Johan Elmander operating as a target man and Robert Snodgrass slotting in behind him.  As the first-half wore on Snodgrass moved further out wide and it became more of a 4-5-1, which left Elmander very isolated.

Norwich showed that they were going to try and soak up Chelsea’s pressure, which they did very effectively, but it isolated Elmander.  Norwich’s main problem was that they needed a goal from somewhere, but they created very few opportunities.  A lot of the time they absorbed Chelsea’s attacks, cleared it to Elmander, and hope he could control long enough for players to provide support.  Often, he would get a head on the ball, but then lose it to Chelsea defenders.  There were very few times that Norwich threatened Chelsea’s defense during the first-half, but they should have had a penalty.

In the tenth minute, Martin Olsson surged into the box and had the ball taken off his foot by an Ashley Cole slide-tackle, but Olsson got one more touch on the ball and was taken out by John Terry’s slide-tackle.  It was a very difficult decision for the referee to make because it happened in a matter of seconds.  He must have judged that Terry was carried by his momentum and did not foul Olsson, but Terry did not touch the ball and took Olsson out.  For me it was a clear penalty.  That was Norwich’s best chance to score, and Chelsea definitely had the better opportunities.  In the 32nd minute, Chelsea were a matter of inches away from going into half-time 1-0 up when Andre Schurrle hit the post after picking up Nemanja Matic’s brilliant pass.

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Eden Hazard was a focal point of the game after he was dropped following midweek comments about Jose Mourinho.

At half-time, Jose Mourinho made two changes, bringing on Eden Hazard for Mohamed Salah and David Luiz for Frank Lampard.  Chelsea had looked slow in the absence of Eden Hazard, who was dropped after criticizing  Mourinho’s playing style earlier this week.  Bringing on Hazard brought new life into Chelsea’s attack.  Their passing was more fluid and they created numerous chances.  In the 47th minute, Luiz hit the bar from just outside the box with a fierce curling shot that left John Ruddy completely beaten. Despite Chelsea dominating possession, they were unable to break down Norwich’s resolute defense.  They could have had a penalty when Hazard collided with Ryan Bennett’s wild challenge, but a penalty not given. Norwich spent most of the second-half defending, but when Nathan Redmond was brought on for Elmander in the 69th minute, they created better chances.

Redmond was a completely different challenge for the Chelsea defense because he is very quick.  The times that Norwich looked dangerous in the second-half often started with Redmond.  He almost set Snodgrass through on goal in the 71st minute, but Gary Cahill recovered well and blocked the resulting shot.  That was Norwich’s best chance of the second-half, and from the 75th minute on, it was clear Norwich were intent on sealing out the draw, which they did, despite a late flurry of Chelsea chances.

A draw with Chelsea is not a bad result.  Mathematically Norwich are still safe, but they need Sunderland to lose twice, which seems unlikely given their recent form.  Norwich really needed to win this game.  Generally a draw with Chelsea can be seen as a good result, but given the stage of the season the league is in, it is likely not enough.  Norwich now need to beat Arsenal at Carrow Road next Sunday, and hope for results to fall in their favor.