Norwich 0–1 Chelsea
IT RAINED, it poured – and Juan Mata scored: a precious away win for the Blues, in a game that often felt as stodgy as a part-baked mince pie.
Chelsea will know these are the sort of games the desperately need to win in order to be considered plausible title challengers – so will be delighted at the result, even if the performance was not always of vintage quality.
Norwich played a risk-averse first half. Facing a side who had just scored eight, who could blame them?
Placing as many men as possible behind the ball, they cautiously thwarted any attempt at creativity from the visiting Blues.
A flat contest on the pitch was enlivened by fans who had come to sing: the travelling Chelsea following showing vocal support again for deposed former boss Roberto Di Matteo, and under-threat Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole.
It looked like only a significant error from the Norwich back-eight would open things up and, that is what Chelsea were given in the 39th minute.
Mata, not a man any defence should gift with the ball in their final third, unleashed a shot of precision and ferocity that soared past Mark Bunn and bulged the back of the net.
The rain, already torrential, advanced to almost Biblical proportions over half time.
It seemed to drench the second half: passes over-cooked, tackles over-slid.
At one stage Robert Snodgrass went down in the Chelsea box, seemingly having slipped on the wet grass.
Substitute Lampard showed a late glimpse of the lingering class the Chelsea board seem dead-set on ignoring: chasing down as seemingly lost ball, which resulted in a strike against the keeper by Eden Hazard.
These games – away, over Christmas, in miserable weather, and with key man John Terry still missing – show character.
That is something Chelsea will need, with their next trip to Everton.