Chelsea were made to work hard in the second half for this victory in Norfolk, having cruised to a comfortable 2-0 lead by half-time, but we succeeded in seeing the game out for another three Premier League points.
Norwich cut the deficit with a penalty midway through the second period, just reward for their improved showing after the break after a dominant Chelsea first half. The Blues had gone 1-0 up very early on when Trevoh Chalobah’s fourth goal of his maiden Chelsea season started the scoring.Mason Mount, who netted a hat-trick when we hosted Norwich earlier in the season, smashed in the second and it looked plain sailing.Slick attacking play was doing the job, creating frequent threats on the Norwich goal while keeping them away from our penalty area. That changed in the second half but with it not looking impossible we would let the win slip, Kai Havertz finished a 90th-minute chance emphatically for his fifth goal in his last six games, and he and his team-mates could breath more easily.
With Reece James suffering with a muscle problem and Christian Pulisic ill, Thomas Tuchel brought Cesar Azpilicueta and Timo Werner into the side, and he made two rotation decisions with Toni Rudiger and N’Golo Kante on the bench and Andreas Christensen and Mateo Kovacic coming into the side.
This game had been brought forward from later in the month due to our continuing progress in the FA Cup, presenting us with a rare Thursday night league fixture but with four days of rest and preparation since our strong second-half showing at Burnley.
Quick out the blocks
The momentum from that 4-0 win rolled over into this one. There were only two minutes on the clock when we took the lead against the bottom-placed club, Chalobah doing again what he has shown he is capable of this season – causing damage at a set-piece. On this occasion the young central defender barely needed to jump to get the better of his marker Joshua Sargent at the near post and score. Mount had delivered the corner.
The fast start continued when Kai Havertz had a shot saved by Tim Krul’s legs and another Mount corner caused Canary panic.With 12 minutes played, Havertz had another on-target effort saved after he had swivelled sharply, but we only needed to wait another minute for the scoreline to double. Havertz squared the ball, Mount slipped away sideways from the closest defender and rifled a shot high into the net. That one was unsaveable! A great way for Mason to end his three-month wait for a goal.
Norwich did work Mendy on 20 minutes but he caught defender Christoph Zimmermann’s shot with both hands. That was the home side’s only shot on target in the first half. Mount on the volley cleared the crossbar when play quickly returned to the other end of Carrow Road.
Chelsea’s speed of movement in finding space was looking too good for Norwich to prevent further goals, but our corners (we were winning plenty – seven of them in the first 45 minutes alone) were also problematic for the East Anglians. Christensen, left unmarked, headed a corner into the side-netting and Saul from the same side was denied by a Krul save.Kovacic, back in the side and now with a taste for long-range spectaculars after his Liverpool strike, came close to another one shortly before half-time but it curved just wide. Three-nil would not have flattered the first-half performance but we went in at the interval just two goals to the good.
Second-half switch and Norwich switch on
Ruben Loftus-Cheek came on for an ill-feeling Cesar Azpilicueta at the start of the second half, filling in directly at right wing-back, another position to add to his central defensive one at Luton a week ago. Norwich made two half-time substitutions.Mount had the first attempt at goal of the second period before Norwich showed their renewed intent and aggression. Chelsea were being asked to do some defending, the home side at last finding their dangerous players in dangerous positions.On 65 minutes, Pierre Lees-Melou fired a cross into the six-yard box and the ball struck the arm of Chalobah. Mendy saved well after the ball broke to Pukki but the ref was sent to look at the screen and decided on a penalty for handball against the scorer of our first goal. Pukki found the opposite corner to Mendy’s dive to score.
Soon after, our keeper did make a save when Kenny McLean headed a free-kick back across goal. The Chelsea lead was suddenly looking precarious. Norwich were using the flanks well.
Despite being under pressure, the Blues could have all but sealed the victory when Mount drilled the ball low towards the Norwich far post, but both Havertz and Werner could not reach it there, and then Romelu Lukaku, having only just come on, scuffed a Loftus-Cheek pass just wide.The killer blow instead came from Kai. This time there was no messing as the German, from 12 yards out, took a pass from substitute N’Golo Kante and hammered it into the top corner.
The Blues had won four Premier League games in a row. We are now 13 points behind the leaders with a game in hand, and sitting third, are nine points better off than fifth-placed Man United.
Chelsea Mendy; Chalobah, Thiago Silva, Christensen; Azpilicueta (c) (Loftus-Chee h-t), Jorginho, Kovacic (Kante 85), Saul; Mount, Havertz, Werner (Lukaku 85)Unused subs Kepa, Rudiger, Sarr, Kenedy, Vale, ZiyechScorers Chalobah 3, Mount 14, Havertz 90Booked Mendy 68, Chalobah 80
Norwich Krul; Zimmermann (Rupp h-t), Hanley (c), Kabak; Aarons, Lees-Melou, Normann (Rashica h-t), McLean, Williams; Sargent (Rowe 83), PukkiUnused subs Gunn, Gibson, Giannoulis, Dowell, Placheta, Sorensen Scorer Pukki 69 pen
Referee Martin Atkinson