Chelsea win three consecutive Premier League games for the first time in 11 months as the Blues continue their ascent up the table thanks to an offside winner by Diego Costa.
The Blues, who had sparked the game to life with Kenedy scoring after just 39 seconds, had to contend with waiting until first-half injury time until their second, though Costa was offside.
Redmond pulled one back and Jerome spurned many an opportunity as Norwich fought hard, knowing a loss would see them lose eight of their last nine league matches and send them into the drop zone, but the visitors held on to close the gap to the Top Four to eight points.
The starting line-up say two young Chelsea players introduced: Kenedy was preferred to Rahman and Traore over Willian as Hiddink balanced the old — of which Ivanovic was making his 350th Chelsea appearance — and the young.
The former, though deployed in a left-back role, took no time getting going, driving forward and cutting inside before being afforded to space to arrow a left-footed drive past Ruddy. It was a goal to settle his nerves and that of the away fans.
Norwich did come back strongly, undeterred by the early setback, and Cahill had to be alert to get across Jerome, who moments later would race clear and overhit a pass to Hoolahan who was in a good position.
Hazard, who recorded his first assist in 17 Premier League games by laying the ball to Kenedy for Chelsea’s opener, was close to finding Traore with a cross on more than one occasion, and was also looking to slip in Oscar but Ruddy was on hand to snuff out any danger.
Chelsea continued to press and probe but Norwich stood firm, even when they were forced into an early change when O’Neil had to replace the injured Tettey.
Courtois momentarily forgot the rules of the game when he picked up the ball from a backpass but Lee Mason was happy to pretend the daft incident went unnoticed.
Chelsea would soon benefit from another dubious officiating call when a quick throw-in caught Norwich out, and Traore found an offside Costa who looped the ball over Ruddy. The Spaniard has now scored or assisted 12 goals in his last 10 Premier League matches, and it was a sucker-punch of a goal right before the half-time whistle would sound.
Jerome was wasteful from two volleys, the latter hitting the crossbar, but Hiddink was sensing nerves as Mikel came on.
It came as no surprise then to see Norwich eventually pull one back, with Redmond free down Chelsea’s left and rifled one from a tight angle past Courtois.
The challenges came flying in as Fabregas picked up a yellow as did Klose as both sides went for it. O’Neil and Brady had a nasty clash of heads and, when play resumed, it was the substitute Willian who looked to inject some pace and kill the game off.
A frantic end saw Fabregas lay on the ball to Costa but the striker could not finish, but Chelsea will be pleased with the points as Norwich were equally pushing for the equaliser with meritable opportunities.
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Man of the Match
CESAR AZPILICUETA: Right-back or left-back, the Spaniard looks solid and contributed a lot to what was a very frantic ending. Norwich knew Azpilicueta’s defensive robustness and clearly targetted Kenedy, and later Rahman, down the other flank and this is a testament to how solid Azpilicueta is. 7/10
Hiddink was relieved to get across the finishing line: “We didn’t want to go into the battle but they forced us. We were sloppy in the first half, starting well with a beautiful goal and I think we could have finished it in the first half. We were complacent in the last pass. They made our life difficult.”
Neil was disappointed: “The first goal is a real disappointment for us. We have six behind the ball and the left back scores. The second is offside and you expect the officials to get that.”
Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.
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