Late strikes from Frank Lampard and Juan Mata sealed Chelsea’s victory over Norwich, after Holt had cancelled out Jose Bosingwa’s early strike.
Villas-Boas made a tactical change for the game as he started with a flexible diamond formation, which meant that both Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres started, much to the surprise of most fans.
Branislav Ivanovic came in for Alex, with the Serbian now seemingly moving ahead of Alex in the pecking order, and only missed last week’s game because he hadn’t fully recovered yet.
The Canaries, making their first league visit to Stamford Bridge since 2004, led by Paul Lambert had the influential Wes Hoolahan available after he recovered from an injury, while Leon Barnett returned from suspension, with Grant Holt leading the line upfront alongside Chris Martin.
Norwich have had a decent start to the season with consecutive draws against Wigan and Stoke, but started nervously here and sat back giving too much time and space to the Chelsea players, and Ramires was first to take advantage of this as he forced a save from distance.
The visitors were still adjusting to the surroundings when Jose Bosingwa went ahead and put the Blues into the lead with a scorcher from 25yards out, adding to the line of brilliant goals in these encounters. The Portuguese defender continuing his impressive form under Villas-Boas, as he scored his first goal since 2008 to add to his brilliant assist in the last game.
An early goal against a promoted side normally spells doom for them, but Norwich didn’t achieve back to back promotions on the basis of being soft and quickly regrouped and started again.
It seemed as though Chelsea weren’t expecting them to do so and took the foot of the gas.
Soon, Norwich were making attacking moves of their own rather than just stopping ours, with Chelsea’s high defensive line proving to be a cause of discomfort again. Hoolahan’s chipped ball found Grant Holt as he beat the Blues offside trap to set free, but the Cumbria born forward didn’t realise how much time he had and missed his shot as he tried to flick it on.
Hoolahan was again in the mix as he released Chris Martin this time, but his shot was well saved by Hilario, and then trackbacked Martin away from the goal, wherein he followed it up with a good save from Kyle Naughton.
Hilario was proving to be a more than competent back-up for Petr Cech with another composed performance till now.
Despite not being at their fluent best, Chelsea’s front two almost doubled the lead after Torres delightfully played in Drogba, making his 250th start in a Blue shirt, but the Ivorian was just inches away from making contact.
Despite slacking off in the latter part of the first half, Chelsea finished the half better and more in control with Malouda going close with a powerful low shot, but Ruddy was comfortably in position.
Chelsea begin the second half just as they ended the first as both the centre backs went close from corners, but unable to extend the lead.
Norwich were holding their own and were proving to be no pushovers, and soon they would have their reward.
A hopeful cross was played in from the right which was met by Ivanovic, but unfortunately for him and Chelsea, Hilario decided to come out to avert the danger and in the process took out Ivanovic, giving Grant Holt the chance he craved as he looped it into the goal.
And, it got worse after that. Didier Drogba while going for a header got accidently punched by Ruddy instead leaving him immediately unconscious and thus made him fall flat on his face, requiring lengthy treatment on the pitch. He eventually left on a stretcher with an oxygen mask, but initial check-ups have thankfully revealed no further damage.
With Didier unable to continue, Chelsea were forced to send on Nicolas Anelka, who joined Juan Mata in a double substitution.
The Blues then shifted to a 4-3-3 formation, with Mata and Anelka taking positions on the flanks to support Torres.
Norwich were still threatening, and looked to open up the Chelsea defence, but Ivanovic was there to clear the danger resulting in a corner. With Norwich having men forward, it gave the Blues a chance to break and so they did with was a fast and decisive counter.
Nicolas Anelka held up the ball surrounded by Norwich shirts, and had the vision to find the rampaging Ramires. With the Brazilian Bison in full flow and making his typical bursts to the run, there were only two results possible; a penalty or a goal, as evident from games last year. In this case, it resulted in a penalty.
Goalkeeper, John Ruddy, was sent off from bringing him down, and the substitute keeper had no chance when Lampard stepped up and the Blues were ahead, much to the relief of everyone in the ground, some of whom got a bit too anxious at times during the match.
Romelu Lukaku was already being lined up when the penalty was given and was subsequently introduced.
With Norwich down to ten men, there was now more space for everyone with Lukaku having a decent couple of chances to make this a dream debut, but it wasn’t to be. However, one player did make this a dream debut; Juan Mata capitalised on a mistake by Marc Tierney’s and calmly curled it past the keeper to make it a far more convincing scoreline then what it actually was.
Chelsea played good in parts during the game and showed some good movement, with Mata and Lukaku having good cameos on debut. With Sturridge returning from his suspension, the manager now has far more options and could be even more flexible with how he wants his team to play.
After some decent showings in the first two games, Torres had an off day, a luxury which he can’t afford due to the innocuous start to his Chelsea career, meaning questions were again raised about his utility to the team.
André Villas-Boas seemed much more satisfied with how his team were progressing, he said: “It was hard work, particularly in the second half. I think the goal we suffered came against the running of the game because we were a little bit calmer at that stage, but we raised the tempo and the emotions of the game. I think we were able to respond well to suffering the goal.
“We played better in our overhaul, 90 minute performance because we only had two second halves against Stoke and West Brom when we were good. We were more consistent, so we are happy with that and fortunately enough we managed to turn the result in our favour.”
Chelsea: Hilario; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry (c), Cole; Mikel, Ramires, Malouda (Mata 67), Lampard; Torres (Lukaku 82), Drogba (Anelka 70)
Goals Bosingwa 5, Lampard (pen) 81, Mata 90+10