An Olivier Giroud close-range header in first-half stoppage time was all that separated Chelsea and Norwich at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night. His neck muscles bulging, he forced home Christian Pulisic’s cross with such whip that Tim Krul’s fingertips were pushed back by the ball’s pace. But Frank Lampard was pleased that his team steadied
An Olivier Giroud close-range header in first-half stoppage time was all that separated Chelsea and Norwich at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.
His neck muscles bulging, he forced home Christian Pulisic’s cross with such whip that Tim Krul’s fingertips were pushed back by the ball’s pace.
But Frank Lampard was pleased that his team steadied the ship after the weekend’s thumping by Sheffield United, and the final 10 minutes – though nervy – were a masterclass in closing out opponents.
The three points cemented the Blues’ position towards the top of the Premier League ahead of the weekend’s FA Cup semi against Manchester United at Wembley.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jorginho started for the Blues, with N’Golo Kante injured. But while the possession figures flattered Chelsea, this was no free-scoring extravaganza… more a measured, sedate passing display.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 12 league matches against Norwich, winning 10. It means that the Canaries’ long, long run of disappointment against the Blues continues into a 27th year.
The clean sheet pleased the Chelsea manager as much as anything. Keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has already conceded 42 Premier League goals this season – a frankly embarrassing tally for such an expensive netminder. So that 1-0 scoreline was important for him, heading into the weekend.
It was always going to be hard for Norwich after that late goal went in before the break. The Canaries have now lost all 22 of this season’s Premier League games when conceding first and are, incredibly, the only side in Europe’s top five leagues not to gain anything from a losing position.
It’ll be tight at the top of the Premier League to the last moment of the last game at the end of the month… but Chelsea fans have the distraction of that FA Cup semi to enjoy first.
As the matches continue to come thick and fast, the crowd that settles down to watch the Blues take on Man Utd on the BBC at an empty Wembley on Sunday can expect a treat.
Although United stuttered at home to Southampton on Monday night, when the Saints scored a late leveller in Fergie-time, they will be raring to go when the little hand points to six.
Worryingly for Chelsea, the usually dependable Mason Mount seemed out of sorts against the Blades. But it’s a measure of how much Lampard trusts his youngsters that he saved him from participating against Norwich to keep him fresh for Wembley.
After Tuesday’s match, Lampard said: “We controlled the end of the game well. We had 10 or 15 minutes in the middle of the second half where we got sloppy again, and got slower and passed back on ourselves… it’s a trait that we have that comes back in our game, but we got out of that and finished it well.”
He added that there is still clearly a significant gap between the performances of Chelsea and Manchester City, but that he intends to address that next season.
Lampard was pleased with the way the game was closed out, and pleased with the clean sheet. Next up, Wembley.