Late substitutions see off Norwich as Chelsea win 3-1 at Carrow Road

Jamie McDonald

Carrow Road was, I think, the site of one of the more annoying games in recent Chelsea history. Remember that? 0-0 on January 21st, 2012. That match was infuriating because we had a whole bagful of chances to secure three points and failed to capitalise, and that's how it felt like today was going to pan out after the Blues dominated the opening exchanges but failed to completely kill off the game.

We got off to a very bright start. Demba Ba was selected ahead of Samuel Eto'o and showed why, causing real problems for the Norwich City defence and goalkeeper John Ruddy. Within four minutes the Blues were in front, with Ba collecting Frank Lampard's long pass forwards and laying the ball off to Oscar, who fired into the far corner with his first touch.

That goal could easily have been one of many. For the next half hour, Chelsea were dominant, carving open the hosts' defence at will, and it took some good goalkeeping, some poor finishing and a refereeing error by Neil Swarbrick to prevent the Blues scoring another two or three over that spell. But all good things must come to an end, and we weren't able to keep up that level of intensity all game. And that gave the Canaries a route back into the match.

Some Norwich pressure would have been acceptable had there been a bigger cushion, but with a 1-0 lead letting them get clear sights on goal, even if they were wasting them, made for a much more nervy game than it should have been, considering the early goal. Yes, the hosts' best chance in the first half would have been an own goal by David Luiz, but that the lead was at risk at all was... well, it was bad.

The second half started with a good chance to make it 2-0 -- Ba's touch was just a little too weak to steer Ramires' cross into the net -- and then quickly settled back into frustration, with Norwich coming closer and closer to the equaliser. They could easily have had a penalty when Ramires brought down Anthony Pilkington on a fast break, and there was another shout -- although this one was ridiculous -- after John Terry foiled Ricky van Wolfswinkel by clearing the ball into the striker's chest and away.

The defending was entirely too cavalier (especially out wide), and eventually Chelsea would be made to pay. It was difficult to even be disappointed when Norwich scored, so obvious was the impending goal. Van Wolfswinkel beat Terry to a high cross, and his knockback was knocked past Petr Cech by Pilkington. 1-1.

With 68 minutes gone, there wasn't much time for Blues to get back in front. Jose Mourinho responded by switching on Eto'o for the impressive-but-unlucky Ba, and made a more significant change minutes later by throwing on Eden Hazard for Ashley Cole and switching to a 3-6-1 with Andre Schurrle and Ramires as wingbacks.

This change caused some problems for Norwich -- Branislav Ivanovic nearly grabbed a goal with a potshot from outside the box, while Hazard forged an opening with a sumptuous touch only for a miskick to undo his good work -- but it also caused problems for Chelsea, because the flanks, where the hosts were getting most of their joy, were even weaker. Chris Hughton exploited this by throwing terrifying young winger Nathan Redmond into the fray, and the Canaries poured forward.

As it turned out, that was a good thing. The winner would come from a Norwich attack. Specifically, it would come from a Norwich corner. Willian, on for Juan Mata in the 81st minute, was able to get the ball clear to Oscar, and the Brazilian hit a through pass aimed at Hazard's run. Alexander Tettey was back to cover, but the midfielder slipped at the crucial minute and Ruddy couldn't keep out Hazard's finish despite getting quite a lot on the ball.

At 2-1, I think everyone was feeling more positive. But better was to come thanks to Willian, who opened his Chelsea account in style to kill the game off completely. After Eto'o was crowded out on the edge of the box by a pack of yellow shirts, possession broke to the former Shakhtar Donetsk man, and he promptly sent a curling shot that swerved just inside John Ruddy's far post.

Now that the game was no longer in doubt, Chelsea were having fun, and it wouldn't have been out of the question for them to have run up the score even further. But they didn't need to. 3-1 -- and three points -- was plenty, and the Blues can go into the international break on a high. Even if it wasn't quite so routine a high as it should have been.

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