Norwich City 0, Chelsea 1
17:09 26 December 2012
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A superbly-taken goal by Chelsea’s Juan Mata was enough to end Norwich City’s run of five successive Premier League home victories at rainswept Carrow Road.
Spanish star Mata struck seven minutes before half-time with a fine effort from just outside the Norwich area after Victor Moses and the recalled Oscar combined to set him up.
The Canaries produced a spirited display in conditions that were far from ideal, and certainly never looked likely to succumb to the kind of hammering handed out to Aston Villa three days earlier, but they seldom troubled Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech and slipped to their second successive defeat.
Goalkeeper Mark Bunn saved from Moses and substitute Eden Hazard in the second period to prevent further damage, while defender Sebastien Bassong went as close as anyone for City with a stoppage-time header that bounced just over.
City showed two changes after the 2-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion with Steven Whittaker ruled out by the hip problem that meant he was substituted at The Hawthorns and replaced at right-back by Russell Martin, and skipper Grant Holt fit again after a hamstring problem, replacing Steve Morison in attack.
Declan Rudd returned as substitute goalkeeper after his weekend illness, and Ryan Bennett was recalled to the bench.
Chelsea, 8-0 winners at home to Aston Villa on Sunday, made two changes with John Obi Mikel back from suspension and Oscar also included, with veteran midfielder Frank Lampard and Belgian star Eden Hazard dropping to the bench.
A collision between Cahill and Pilkington in the eighth minute left both players rubbing their heads but able to continue and, as City threatened for the first time, Snodgrass had a shot blocked and Tettey, following up, sliced his effort badly and it spun towards the corner flag.
At the other end, a free-kick by Oscar was headed away by Tettey but there was little in the opening stages to cause the Canaries any discomfort.
City grew in confidence and after a Snodgrass corner was headed away by Cahill, Russell Martin had a shot blocked by Oscar.
Bunn was not troubled in the opening 20 minutes and a terrible attempt from long range by Luiz sailed high into the River End of the ground.
A poor cross by Garrido spoiled a good City move and as Chelsea broke, Luiz produced another effort almost as poor as the previous one.
An important challenge by Turner stopped Cole getting in a shot after a pass from Luiz threatened to put him clear, then Mata struck the side netting from a Luiz pass when he might have done better with his other foot.
Mikel struck a powerful shot just off target after Luiz and Mata combined in a more dangerous Chelsea break.
Bassong cut out a cross from Moses at the near post as the visitors began to get more of a grip on proceedings, and sure enough they went ahead on 38 minutes with a superb goal from Mata.
The Spaniard took a pass from the left from Oscar and, though hemmed in on the edge of the area, found enough space to strike a perfect left-foot shot past the fingertips of the diving Bunn.
City tried to respond and Snodgrass fired wide before a cross from Pilkington caused momentary panic and forced a corner, Johnson’s backheader flying over from a Snodgrass kick.
In the final minute of the half, as rain began to fall, Snodgrass had a shot charged down by Ivanovic after Holt knocked on Bunn’s kick.
• Half-time: Norwich City 0, Chelsea 1
A corner from Oscar soon after the restart posed problems as Moses flicked it on and Bunn had to be alert to save at the near post.
Torres had a shot blocked by Bassong as Chelsea pressed again in search of a second goal.
Bunn saved again from Moses, from a tight angle, after a cross from Ivanovic was allowed to slip across the six-yard box.
Cahill cut out a cross from Snodgrass at full stretch and a neat move ended with Holt firing wide from Hoolahan’s pass, but he had already been flagged offside.
Rain was now sweeping across the ground, making conditions more difficult, and another Hoolahan-inspired break ended with Pilkington squeezing in a shot that lacked the power to trouble Cech.
Moses missed a decent chance midway through the second half when he neatly brought down a cross from Azpilicueta but shot wide, probably with the wrong foot.
City forced a couple of corners without joy and with 20 minutes to go, Cech had still not been seriously troubled.
Chelsea made their first change on 73 minutes when the limping Mikel made way for Lampard, who took over the captain’s armband from goalkeeper Cech.
Mata was next to go down injured as Chelsea’s time wasting began to grate with the home crowd.
With 11 minutes left there was a double change as City replaced Pilkington with Morison, and Chelsea sent on Hazard for Moses.
Mata headed wide from a cross by Azpilicueta as Chelsea looked for the goal that would make the game safe.
Johnson was booked for a dive as Luiz challenged and it was his last act of the afternoon as he made way for Howson.
Bunn saved from Hazard three minutes from time after Bassong had given the ball away to Lampard and, with less than two minutes left, Hoolahan made way for Elliott Bennett.
Hazard was booked for a blatant trip on Russell Martin as the game entered stoppage time, when City twice went close.
First Cole cleared dangerously close to his own goal, then Bassong’s downward header from the resulting corner by Snodgrass corner was just off target.
• Norwich City: Bunn; Russell Martin, Turner, Bassong, Garrido; Tettey, Johnson (Howson, 81); Snodgrass, Hoolahan (Elliott Bennett, 89), Pilkington (Morison, 79); Holt. Subs (not used): Rudd, Ryan Bennett, Barnett, Jackson.
• Chelsea: Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole; Luiz, Mikel (Lampard, 73); Moses (Hazard, 79), Mata (Ake, 90), Oscar; Torres. Subs (not used): Turnbull, Ferreira, Marin, Piazon.
• Referee: Jon Moss (West Riding)
• Attendance: 26,831
• Goal: Chelsea: Mata (38)
• Bookings: City: Johnson (81). Chelsea: Hazard (90)