Chelsea cruise against Norwich City in clash of crisis clubs

Two clubs in crisis clashed at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Chelsea are in turmoil because their captain has been convicted of using racist language by an FA Commission who described his evidence as “Improbable, implausible, and contrived” and he has been shamed into calling time on his international career.

His fellow defender Ashley Cole is under fire for a tweet aimed at the FA that was hurriedly deleted. There are also allegations that both Cole’s and Chelsea Secretary David Barnard’s evidence in the case was inconsistent.

Norwich are in chaos because they are in 19th position in the Premier League, winless, seemingly clueless about how to remedy the situation, hemorrhaging goals, and unable to score themselves. It has also been reported that they are suing their former manager, whose name I have forgotten, over the circumstances of his acrimonious departure from the club at the end of last season, and that he is counter-suing them in the same context.

In many ways it was a relief to both clubs when the ref blew his whistle and a football match broke out at 3pm on Saturday. For this encounter City recalled Bassong, Elliott Bennett, Hoolahan and Holt, and gave a first start to Tettey. Norwich played in yellow shirts, not their All Black away kit, so Holty did not need to lead his team into a performance of the Haka.

The first chance fell to Chelsea after two minutes when Torres, looking suspiciously offside, raced clear through, but was brilliantly denied by Barnett. After 11 minutes Holt showed him how it should be done when Hoolahan raced down the left wing and crossed. Barnett nodded down and Holt notched his second goal in as many games. The Canary fans celebrated, and dreamt of a first win, but the lead lasted but three minutes. After good work by Mata, Ivanovic’s cross was headed in by Torres.

Two chances then fell to City. Unfortunately Tettey headed very wide, nearer the corner flag than the goal, and Johnson shot straight into keeper Cech’s arms. They were made to pay for their profligacy after 22 minutes when Martin blocked Torres’ bicycle kick only for Lampard to score from the rebound.

After 31 minutes Chelsea added a third. And a good goal it was too. Hoolahan gave the ball away on the edge of the Chelsea area and Mata ran fully 50 yards before crossing perfectly for Hazard to score with ease. Holt missed with a header and Ruddy then saved twice from Oscar so the teams went in at the break with the score 3-1 to the Blues.

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As they sipped their half-time Bovril City fans prayed that they would not concede five goals for a second consecutive Saturday. And for most of the second half their team weathered that storm. Holt again headed wide, and although Chelsea had most possession they scored only once more, in the 76th minute when Ivanovic volleyed home from Mata’s cross.

Pilkington replaced Johnson after 68 minutes, Morison came on for Holt after 76 minutes, and Ryan Bennett came on when Bassong went off after 77 minutes. So it finished 4-1 to Chelsea. City fans were still chortling over the tannoy announcement that Chelsea did not condone racism in any form. Laugh? I nearly giggled at the paradox.

It has to be said that overall Chelsea deserved their win, and City had no answer to the subtlety and fluency of Chelsea’s midfield of Mata, Hazard, and Oscar. Apart from Holt’s goal and two misplaced headers, Norwich did not force a save out of Cech. So where do City go from here? I wish I knew the answer. Alarm bells should be ringing at Carrow Road in the boardroom and at Colney. Our only redeeming factor so far this season is that QPR are experiencing worse results than us and Reading too are struggling. We are the three winless clubs in the league.

Norwich desperately need a run of luck, the rub of the green, and a first morale boosting win, indeed we require a couple of wins to lift us up the table. If only we could play badly but scrape a win. There will now follow another international break before we continue our sequence of games against London clubs with a home game against Arsenal. Let us hope Butterfield and Whittaker are soon fit and able to contribute to the Canary cause. Otherwise it promises to be a long hard winter.