Chelsea ease to victory as City slip to club record eighth successive league loss
Going to high-flying Chelsea so soon after Premier League relegation was confirmed was never going to be easy but Norwich City at least showed some defensive determination at Stamford Bridge.
Daniel Farke’s team couldn’t avoid a club record eighth consecutive league defeat though, thanks to an Olivier Giroud header just before the break for the dominant hosts.
Alex Tettey captained the Canaries again, as he made his 100th Premier League appearance for the club, leaving him one short of Bradley Johnson in eighth place in the club’s top appearance makers in the top flight since 1992.
But there were four changes to the starting XI as Daniel Farke reverted to the 4-5-1 formation which had showed some promising signs as a more solid set-up since the season resumed.
Josip Drmic, Todd Cantwell, Lukas Rupp and Kenny McLean all started, with Teemu Pukki, Emi Buendia, Marco Stiepermann and Mario Vrancic dropping to the bench three days after the 4-0 home defeat to West Ham which had confirmed relegation – ahead of a more winnable home game against Burnley on Saturday.
Chelsea also made four changes as they looked to bounce back from a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United, sitting just a point ahead of Leicester and Manchester United in the race for the final two Champions League qualification spots ahead of kick-off.
Their frustration largely continued as City tried to show some defensive resilience but the hosts did have firm control of proceedings, with Ben Godfrey needed to be bright three times to deal with danger in the opening 15 minutes.
The England Under-21 defender had a let off in the 19th minute though when his control of a long ball forward from Ruben Loftus-Cheek was poor, only for Giroud to scuff his shot to Tim Krul.
The Blues’ full-backs were able to largely camp in the Norwich half and Christian Pulisic clipped the back of the netting after linking nicely with Marcos Alonso, leaving Max Aarons stuck in the middle of them.
Timm Klose survived a scare as Pulisic clattered into him after a tangle with Alex Tettey in the 32nd minute, after some treatment on his knee.
Shortly after Jamal Lewis recovered well to block a Willian shot after Giroud had flicked on an Alonso cross from the left and Cesar Azpilacueta looped a Willian corner just beyond the far post, as the hosts moved through the gears.
Krul superbly tipped a Pulisic blast on to his bar and over, with Kurt Zouma thumping a header from another excellent Willian corner.
Yet just as City thought they had held on until half-time, Pulisic whipped an in-swinging cross in from the right and France striker Giroud got goal side of Klose to head past Krul from close range.
It’s been a big ask of the Switzerland defender to rediscover form after his injury problems, amid a grim relegation battle, but he was beaten all ends up as World Cup winner Giroud scored his sixth goal in 10 league games.
The hosts’ dominance increased after the break, with Zouma and Giround both heading the latest in a succession of brilliant WIllian corners just wide, with McLean blasting a low shot against Azpilacueta in one of City’s rare forays forward.
Frank Lampard turned to the first of his five England internationals on the bench as he brought Ross Barkley on for Loftus-Cheek in the 67th minute - just one of the excellent options available to him among the nine substitutes.
Cantwell intercepted an Alonso pass and charged forward, only for Hernandez to miss the chance to pull the trigger and for Max Aarons to see his follow-up cross blocked.
Godfrey lost Pulisic in the 75th minute but Krul was down sharply at his near post and Klose cleared the loose ball, and Krul was needed again to block an Alonso header from point-blank range soon after.
It seemed a matter of when Chelsea scored again, rather than if, as both sides rolled through their substitutions. Yet the closest they came was Krul beating away a powerful William free-kick, as the score somehow stayed 1-0 despite Chelsea having 22 shots and almost 70pc of possession.
The defeat stretched Chelsea’s unbeaten run against Norwich to 20 matches, stretching all the way back to City winning 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in 1993.
It also continued a miserable top-flight run in London, which has now extended to just two draws in 21 games, since a 2-1 win at Tottenham in April 2012.
NORWICH (4-5-1): Krul; Aarons, Godfrey, Klose, Lewis; Cantwell (Buendia 71), Rupp (Martin 88), Tettey (C - Stiepermann 79), McLean, Hernandez (Pukki 79); Drmic (Idah 79). Subs: McGovern (GK), Thomas, Trybull, Vrancic
Booked: Cantwell (foul on Loftus-Cheek, 58)
CHELSEA (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga; Azpilacueta (C), Zouma, Rudiger, Alonso (James 80); Kovacic, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek (Barkley 67); Willian, Giroud (Abraham 85), Pulisic (Hudson-Odoi 80). Subs: Caballero (GK), Christensen, Tomori, Mount, Pedro
Booked: Kovacic (foul on Cantwell, 62)
Goals: Giroud (45+3)
REFEREE: Jonathan Moss (West Yorks)
VAR: Martin Atkinson (West Yorks)