A casual glance at the league table heading into the academy weekend might have given cause to thinking that unbeaten Chelsea at home to winless Norwich had the makings of a rather one-sided contest. And, in truth, it really was for much of the time, which means the Blues will come away from their 3-2 triumph with plenty to ponder.
For, despite George Nunn’s second-minute opener, and two special goals from Pierre Ekwah Elimby, they didn’t really play as well as they’re capable of. The game could and perhaps should have been well and truly up by half time, when the Blues might have been five or six to the good, but they let Norwich hang around for too long and didn’t find the killer instinct to put them away.
That meant the visitors still had a chance, even at 3-0 down in the closing stages, and it meant that Jonathan Rowe’s late brace made for a more uncomfortable conclusion to the match than anyone at Chelsea would have liked. It could all have been so different too; Nunn’s well-guided header from Xavier Simons’ cross put them ahead inside ninety seconds, and Ekwah doubled that advantage before a quarter of an hour had been played with a low free kick around the ball from the edge of the area.
Rather than rack up the score, however, the hosts struggled to assert their clear superiority. Sure, they were unlucky on occasion, but Marcel Lewis, Dion Rankine and Joe Haigh should all have done better with the clearest chances that came their way before the break. As tends to happen, the visitors found a renewed vigour after a tepid first 45 minutes, and quickly dragged Chelsea down to their level in the second half.
Ekwahs’s second, a scorching 25-yarder that flew right into the top corner, effectively put the result beyond doubt shortly after the hour mark, but something still wasn’t right about their play. Half-chances and promising crosses went unrewarded, Rankine – otherwise excellent – dithered a heartbeat too long with the clearest opportunity to extend the lead, and they couldn’t pull away.
It shouldn’t have mattered at 3-0 up. Ben Elliott made his comeback from a lengthy injury absence with ten minutes left, but then things started to go wrong. Poor play at the back handed Rowe his first, one the winger took very well indeed, before a second arrived in the final minute of normal time after a good through ball from Tyrese Omotoye put him in behind the Chelsea defence.
The five minutes of stoppage time were nervous enough without losing Rankine to an ankle injury after using all three substitutes, but Norwich couldn’t complete the unlikely comeback. Brighton’s draw at West Ham sees them lose ground at the top, but Fulham’s second consecutive 5-1 win keeps them ahead of the Blues on goal difference at the top of the standings. It’s Wolves at home next for Chelsea in the Premier League Cup, a week on Wednesday.
Chelsea: Askew, Wiggett (Clark 72), McClelland (c), Colwill, Aina (Brooking 85), Ekwah, Rankine, Simons, Nunn, Lewis (Elliott 80), Haigh
Subs not Used: Bergström, Broja
Goals: Nunn 2, Ekwah 13, 62
Norwich City: Rose, Vaughan, Stewart, Tomkinson, Warner, Khumbeni, Springett (Dickson-Peters 23), Dronfield (c), Omotoye, Giurgi (Jackson), Rowe
Subs not Used: Blair, Kamara, Jackson
Goals: Rowe 85, 89