Chelsea’s season fizzles out as Norwich fall short
Canaries first point under Neil Adams looks to have come too late at Stamford Bridge
Frank Lampard of Chelsea acknowledges the crowd after the scoreless draw with Norwich City at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Branislav Ivanovic (centre)John Terry of Chelsea react as referee Neil Swarbrick turns down a penalty appeal during the Premier League game against Norwich City at Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images
CHELSEA 0 NORWICH CITY 0
In the end this result may actually have put paid to both these side’s lingering hopes this term. The Chelsea team returned to the turf after the final whistle for their “parade of appreciation” with a goalless draw having surely confirmed José Mourinho’s oft-stated belief that the title will be beyond them. They are a club with a summer of further tweaks to the personnel on their minds. For Norwich City, despite securing a draw that should provoke some satisfaction and earned a rapturous ovation from the travelling support, the immediate future is grim.
The first point of Neil Adams’s interim stewardship has most likely come too late in the day to save City. The visitors departed still two points below the cut-off and their relegation can effectively be confirmed on Wednesday night if Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion, the two teams immediately above them, play out a draw on Wearside. This may have been encouraging, and they can cling to the hope that Albion and Swansea City prevail this week at the Stadium of Light, but a three-year stint among the elite appears to be drawing to a close.
The visitors had competed well for long periods, albeit against lacklustre hosts whose energy appeared to have fizzled out in the wake of their elimination by Atlético Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals, and with others having the advantage in the title race. Andre Schürrle and Nemanja Matic each struck the woodwork for the home side, the latter having been introduced at the interval along with Eden Hazard in a desperate attempt to enliven proceedings. But there was too much stodginess to Chelsea’s play, too little zest against opponents who, belatedly, had found some resolve away from home. This was their first point in nine games away from Carrow Road. It is that slackness that has cost them.
Mourinho fidgeted frustratedly in his technical area, his mood darkened when Ryan Bennett swung his leg to challenge Hazard in the area with the Belgian leaping to avoid the limb and tumbling to the turf as a result. The referee, Neil Swarbrick, ignored the penalty appeals while the home manager made his own view clear to the fourth official. Yet the visitors had felt just as aggrieved early on when Bradley Johnson’s pass reached Martin Olsson and, if Ashley Cole had made faint contact with the ball, John Terry certainly did not. The referee had been just as emphatic in his denials.
Olsson’s delivery was dangerous at times in that opening period, the Swede flinging over crosses that fizzed through the six-yard box, but one of this team’s problems this season has been converting such opportunities. They have scored 28 goals this season and their lone forward here, Johan Elmander, has just one in the league. By the end they were chasing the contest against a more adventurous Chelsea lineup who, at times, did overcommit in search of their own winner. The visitors’ clearest opportunity fell to Robert Snodgrass 19 minutes from time, the midfielder liberated by Nathan Redmond’s pass, but a heavy touch and Gary Cahill’s excellent challenge suffocated the shot into the side-netting. With that probably went Norwich’s best chance of mounting their great escape. The next week should prove this occasion was unsatisfactory for all concerned.