Norwich City 0-1 Chelsea

Chelsea held out at a drenched Carrow Road, as Juan Mata’s goal was enough to take all three points home.

The Spaniard, who made, and scored, in his debut against Norwich 16 months ago, scored against the East Anglia side yet again this afternoon, this time on his 50th Premier League appearance.

Indeed, December has always been a tricky month for Chelsea in recent history, but the revival shown under Rafael Benitez gathers yet more momentum.

In fact, this victory was Chelsea’s first league win under Benitez against a side who were in the top half of the table at kick off, indicative of the easy start Benitez has been eased into during his first 10 games as interim manager, of which four has recorded a clean sheet.

But having played just three days ago against Aston Villa, rotation was key for Rafa’s men. Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard were rested, with Mikel and Oscar ably replacing them in the starting eleven that also saw David Luiz continue in his role as anchorman.

Rafael Benitez had dare not underestimate a Norwich side, who have already beaten the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United earlier in the season.

And it could have gotten off to the worst possible start for the travelling side, with Snodgrass showing their intent in the early stages, which Gary Cahill had to stand up tall to.

But as the half wore on, so Chelsea got their act together.

David Luiz hit aimless shots that flew over the bar, but it was his pass to Juan Mata which rippled the net. Unfortunately for the Blues, it was only the side-netting, when the Spaniard ought to have done better.

But if that was Juan Mata spurning a good chance, this was the former Valencia playmaker at his very best. Closed down by a number of green and yellow shirts, Mata managed to evade them all, before unleashing a 20 yard effort past the hapless Bunn.

The good start Norwich had made took a major whack with that goal, which was Mata’s 13th of the season. Coupled with 15 assists already this season, it is easy to understand why his manager hailed him as “one of the best” players in the league.

It must be noted that Oscar’s assist for Mata’s goal meant that the Brazilian himself recorded his sixth assist of the season, making him the third highest provider in the squad behind Mata and Hazard.

The home fans had their goalkeeper to thank early in the second half, saving twice from Victor Moses, as the Blues searched for that second goal.

Mata, too, tried his luck, but his set-piece did not fool Bunn, before Pilkington had a go for himself.

Steady heads and more penetrative play was needed, with Benitez opting to shore up the defence with the introduction of Frank Lampard, whilst also utilising the skill in abundance at Chelsea, bringing on Eden Hazard in the final 20 minutes of the game.

And the duo nearly combined for that decisive second with minutes to go, but the Belgian failed to get enough lift into his shot over Bunn.

It would have been typical of Chelsea to concede late, and so they nearly did. First, Ashley Cole had to hook the ball over his own bar, and then from the resulting corner, Bassong headed downwards unmarked, but much to Cech’s relief, the ball bounced down and over his bar.

Nathan Ake became the 683rd player to play for the Blues when he came on for his first senior game for the European Champions in stoppage time, as Benitez looked to waste more time, but Norwich, in truth, offered very little, with Cesar Azpilicueta himself creating only one less chance than the entire Norwich team put together.

Match Stats

 

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