By, Ugo Nwogwugwu
Back To Carrow Road
Saturday 6th January, Carrow Road – Chelsea were in Norfolk county for their FA Cup third round game v Norwich City FC.
Norwich were in thirteenth place in the Championship with twenty-two games played, just two points behind “Old Farm” rivals Ipswich Town in twelfth. Chelsea were a full thirty places ahead of their hosts, third in the premier league, a point behind Manchester United and two ahead of Liverpool FC.
Norwich and Chelsea had last met in the premier league, back in 2015/16, before Norwich were relegated to the EFL Championship. The Blues beat the Canaries 1 – 0 at home and 2 – 1 away that season. Diego Costa scored the winning goal both games, while Chelsea prospect Kenedy recorded a memorable strike the first minute of the away game. Nathan Redmond scored Norwich’s only goal of the two fixtures.
Norwich midfielders Marco Stiepermann and Harrison Reed both missed this game through injury. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard was also unavailable, with a minor injury from their midweek match at the Emirates.
There was some good news though: David Luiz started for Chelsea after two months out with a knee injury. Charly Musonda had also recovered from a groin injury, and was on the bench today.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Gunn 8, Klose 7.5, Zimmermann 7.5, Hanley 7, Pinto 7, Trybull 7, Tettey 7.5, Lewis 7, Pritchard 7.5 (Wildschut 5.5), Maddison 7.5, Murphy 8 (Oliveira 5.5)
Subs McGovern, Vrancic, Husband, Watkins, Hoolahan, Wildschut, Oliveira
Caballero 7.5, Zappacosta 7, Rudiger 7.5, Luiz 5, Cahill 7.5, Kenedy 6 (Musonda 6), Drinkwater 6.5, Bakayoko 6, Willian 7.5, Pedro 6.5 (Sterling NR), Batshuayi 6 (Morata 5.5)
Subs Eduardo, Ampadu, Sterling, Hudson-Odoi, Clarke-Salter, Musonda, Morata
Odds & Ends
Chelsea made nine changes to the line-up from their last game, possibly in preparation for the Carabao Cup fixture against Arsenal in four days’ time. Apart from David Luiz (and Antonio Rudiger) in center back, Willy Caballero came in for Thibaut Courtois, Davide Zappacosta and Kenedy were the wing backs in today’s 3-4-3, Danny Drinkwater was in midfield, and Willian, Pedro and Michy Batshuayi were the three players in front.
Sometimes with rotation a team gets positive competition, energy and commitment from the squad players. Other times though, especially if there are too many changes and key players are rusty, rather than a good team you can end up with… a kind of collection of odds and ends.
Unfortunately, Chelsea were the latter today. Their first half performance was possibly the worst of the season; they literally couldn’t manage a single shot on target. Norwich City didn’t have a shot on target either the first half, but they played much better. They just suffered from a lack of quality in front.
They had the first chance of the game – Alex Pritchard almost took possession from Luiz in the eighteen-yard box, when the defender’s poor first touch on a Caballero pass put the ball in his path.
Canaries top scorer Josh Murphy was a threat from the left wing almost the entire game, but his finishing didn’t quite match his pace and dribbling. He blasted an early shot high and wide, and his second big opportunity, he put the ball harmlessly across goal, when he might have cut back for Pritchard to finish into an empty net.
Just before the break, Daniel Pinto put a cross into the box from the right wing, and Pritchard set up James Maddison on the edge of the area, but Maddison’s shot went straight over the bar.
Just One Of Those Days
Chelsea played a far more positive second half, but where Norwich pressed up effectively in the first half, to prevent Chelsea from building or finishing attacking moves, in the second they sat back and defended well, almost catching Chelsea on the break a few times.
A couple of minutes into the second period, Kenedy put an excellent cross right across goal, and Zappacosta headed the ball back into the six-yard box for Willian to finish, but Christoph Zimmermann got to the ball first and cleared it.
Michy Batshuayi and Tiemoue Bakayoko both tried shots from distance, but the first was easily saved while the second went wide. Pedro set up Willian on the edge of the area but Manchester City loan keeper Angus Gunn palmed his shot out for a corner.
Pedro received the ball on the edge of the box off a corner, and tried one himself, but it went over the bar. Shortly afterwards Willian dribbled in from the right wing, past two players and into the box. He took another shot, but this effort was also saved.
David Luiz sent a free kick narrowly over the bar, and Danny Drinkwater’s long-range shot was saved by Gunn. In the last few minutes of the game, Zappacosta attempted an angled shot from out on the left wing, but it was just off target.
And so Norwich City forced a replay, and Chelsea had another game added to a busy calendar. Norwich deserved at least a draw from this game, all credit to City manager Daniel Farke and his players.
It might have looked like Chelsea did not play as well as they have done in the last few games – they had five wins, two draws in the seven fixtures before this one. But maybe that had as much to do with the home team’s excellence, as any failings on Chelsea’s part. Next up, massive midweek game at the Bridge: Chelsea play Arsenal in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-finals.
Final Score Norwich City 0 – 0 Chelsea
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Evening Standard
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