Goalkeepers have often dominated Norwich City games against Chelsea
It’s been a while since Norwich City got one over Chelsea – dating back to the days when the Londoners were, well, pretty much your standard top-flight team.
Things have changed since the early 90s – and Chelsea were probably the club at the forefront of the takeover revolution.
Ken Bates had encouraged change, with emphasis on overseas flair players, but it was his sale of the club to Roman Abramovich in 2003 which helped change the face of football forever.
The Russian ploughed hundreds of millions into Chelsea and made them a massive force in the world game.
Look back to the 1990s and that was the last time City were better than the Blues, when progress in the Uefa Cup and success in the inaugural Premier League season when City finished third overshadowed Chelsea’s 11th place.
Today, of course, it is a very different story: the Blues have money to burn; for City, every penny is a prisoner.
In the 92-93 season, City doubled Chelsea, winning 2-1 Carrow Road, thanks to goals from David Phillips and Mark Robins, having gone behind to one from Graham Stuart, and then won 3-2 at the Bridge. Robins, with two this time, and Phillips did the damage again.
But it’s been meagre pickings since: in 17 games City have won two, drawn four and lost 11. And those two wins came in the following two Premiership campaigns. City haven’t beaten Chelsea in their last 13 meetings.
Not good - but at least there have been some memorable games (unless your are Didier Drogba ... more of that a bit further down).
Three of those previous 13 games have been in the FA Cup – there was a goalless draw at Carrow Road in 2002 which was due largely to the brilliance of Blues keeper Carlo Cudicini, with the replay ending in a 4-0 defeat - including the famous Gianfranco Zola back-heel volley goal.
There was also an FA Cup meeting in 2007, when City were again beaten 4-0.
The footballing gods were against them that day with City keeper David Marshall turning an ankle in his goalmouth, which had the look of Holkham beach about it, and having to be replaced with just 11 minutes gone. Paul Gallacher was beaten by goals from £100m worth of talent – Shaun Wright-Phillips, Drogba, Michael Essien and Andriy Shevchenko. If you’re going to lose, then lose to quality eh?
Norwich had started the game brightly and almost took a deserved lead when the excellent Dickson Etuhu hit a low shot which bobbled past Petr Cech only to come back off the inside of the post. Lee Croft picked up the rebound but Khaild Boulahrouz did well to clear.
Two goals down, City almost set up a nervy finale when Croft’s volley came back off the bar, Jason Shackell had a sharp effort well saved and Dion Dublin also tested the Blues keeper with a header, but Chelsea doubled the advantage with two injury-time strikes.
In the aftermath, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho generously offered Peter Grant one of Chelsea’s ‘spare’ keepers, Hilario. Grant declined.
There’s a theme emerging with goalkeepers here: City number one John Ruddy was involved in two memorable moments – which is where Drogba comes in – as City lost 3-1 away in the league in August 2011.
Grant Holt had levelled after Chelsea led through Jose Bosingwa, but then Drogba took a mighty whack from the City keeper as they both went for a high ball.
If you were there you’d perhaps agree that Drogba was unconscious before he hit the ground: it was a football collision, nothing more, but there was clear concern for Drogba, who lay motionless for an uncomfortably long time – long enough for 11 minuets of time to be added on.
City were well in the game – John Terry nipping in in the nick of time to stop Steve Morison – but then came Ruddy’s second big incident of the day as he brought down Ramires in the area. Frankly, the Brazilian could have done with lessons in bravery from Drogba. But penalty it was, and a red card for Ruddy, with Declan Rudd unable to prevent Lampard from 12 yards.
“The penalty’s turned the game,” said Paul Lambert. “We could’ve been up 2-1, but I can’t ask any more from the lads, the way they played. They came here and they thrived on it.”
Drogba was back in action a month later, albeit saying he felt he was lucky to be alive.
Of all the players who featured that day only one remains with his club ... Wes Hoolahan. Which proves that some things never change.