A Blue Up North reviews Chelsea’s trip away to Norwich City.
Chelsea traveled to Carrow Road as they faced newly promoted Norwich City this weekend. And after a late drubbing from Manchester United and squandering the lead at home to Leicester, The Blues were still searching for their first victory of the season.
The general media may have started murmurings of dissatisfaction within the club towards Frank Lampard’s start as Chelsea manager, but most who traveled up to East Anglia went in hope and expectation.
Norwich were crowned champions of English football’s second tier last season, after brushing aside all their competition with some outstanding attacking football. And the cherry on that cake was top goal scorer Teemu Pukki.
The Finnish striker scored more league goals than anyone in all 4 divisions last term and had already bagged himself 4 in their opening 2 matches. So this wasn’t going to be an easy pushover for The Blues. Especially after a rousing home victory last weekend which meant their tails were well and truly up.
Chelsea still have a number of key injuries and that list was added to this week, with N’Golo Kante being a doubt to play. And despite playing a full 90 minutes for the U23s on Monday evening, Antonio Rudiger was still classed as not fit enough to be involved.
So Frank made just 2 changes to the side that drew with Leicester. Tammy Abraham and Mateo Kovacic replaced Olivier Giroud and the injured N’Golo Kante. However, Pedro suffered a hamstring problem in the warm up and so Ross Barkley was drafted in to central midfield, with Mason Mount moving out to the left wing.
And credit to Frank – despite the late change, his team were immediately in control and on the attack. The Blues’s passing and movement was too good for the home side to deal with and that was highlighted by the quality of their opening goal.
Cesar Azpilicueta’s charge down the right wing ended with the captain crossing beautifully for Tammy Abraham to sweetly finish on the volley into the bottom right-hand corner. It was a goal to warm all Chelsea hearts.
However, Norwich are a quality side when attacking. And when the otherwise impressive Jorginho was unable to win the ball, quick passing and movement from the home side allowed Todd Cantwell to tap in the equaliser.
The Blues continued to press forward. Abraham was doing his best to link up play, while Mount and Pulisic were a constant threat. Then when Kovacic won possession in the middle of the home side’s half, the front 3’s quick movement ended with Mount cutting in from the left.
His curling finish past Tim Krul proved his status as a first team player for The Blues. His belief and composure are matched by his ability and willingness. He may not have the stunning skill set of Eden Hazard, but the young Englishman was a constant threat to the Norwich goal.
Sadly, the home side were able to expose the gaps in Chelsea’s defence and their direct play found the dangerous Teemu Pukki clear and he slotted in past Kepa.
The frustration was clear to see. Chelsea had dominated most of the play and been the more threatening team, but were back on level terms for a second time by half time.
But it was a key break for both managers. Frank clearly asked Kovacic to sit a little deeper, especially when Chelsea lost possession. This helped plug some of the gaps in front of The Blues’s defence. Norwich were then far less potent on the counter attack in the second half.
Meanwhile, Daniel Farke appeared to want his team to focus more on the defensive duties. This fell perfectly into Frank’s hand as The Blues spent most of the next 15 minutes encamped in Norwich’s half.
Once again, Chelsea came close but were unable to take advantage of the pressure they were building. But just as Norwich started to get back in to the match, a Chelsea counter attack saw Abraham leaving Grant Hanley and Jamal Lewis in a spin and Chelsea’s youth product rifled in the winning goal.
Norwich tried all they could. The impressive Ben Godfrey nearly made all the difference. His direct run cut through most of the Chelsea team. From the resulting corner the centre back headed the ball against the bar. It was the closest The Canaries came to scoring in the second half.
But the truth is that Frank Lampard’s team restricted a confident, gung-ho side to just 6 attempts at Kepa’s goal. Chelsea should have won by a greater margin but even with VAR, a number of close calls fell to the home side.
Make no mistake, this was a bigger victory than just the 3 points at stake. Lampard as a manager proved he is up to the task in hand, and in both Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham, so are some of Chelsea’s youngsters.
They may have only beaten a newly promoted team, but there was plenty of evidence on show at Carrow Road that there definitely is an evolution going on at Chelsea Football Club.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue