Chelsea 0 Norwich City 0
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Norwich City’s brave goalless draw at Chelsea on Sunday left them clinging to their Premier League status and relying on Sunderland to lose both their remaining matches to stay up.
The Canaries defended manfully and were denied a strong penalty claim in the opening period but Neil Adams’ side were unable to carve out the win that would have breathed fresh life into their survival struggle.
City remained in the bottom three and two points adrift of the Wearsiders, who can now effectively relegate the Norfolk club with a point from their final home matches against the Baggies and Swansea City.
Adams made three changes to the starting line up that lost 4-0 at Manchester United. Ryan Bennett came into a remodelled backline with Russell Martin switching to the right-back berth and Martin Olsson pushed further forward in front of Steven Whittaker.
Alex Tettey slotted into a holding midfield role with Leroy Fer the odd man out and Johan Elmander preferred to either Ricky van Wolfswinkel or Gary Hooper in a line up that appeared designed to frustrate the Blues.
Adams also included Seb Bassong on the bench for the first time since he replaced Chris Hughton as manager, with Elliott Bennett making his re-appearance in the first team since suffering knee ligament damage on the opening day of the season against Everton.
Mark Schwarzer again deputised for injured first choice keeper Petr Cech with Frank Lampard and Nemanja Matic were restored by Jose Mourinho after being unavailable for the midweek Champions League exit to Atletico Madrid.
John Ruddy was pressed into service within the opening moments when he dropped on Andre Schurrle’s right foot strike after Michael Turner and Martin failed to deal with Matic’s throughball.
Ashley Cole cut inside both Robert Snodgrass and Martin but the City skipper recovered his ground at the concession of a home corner dealt with by the Canaries.
City had strong penalty appeals waved away in the 11th minute when Olsson tumbled under Cole’s desperate attentions eight yards out after latching onto Bradley Johnson’s throughball before John Terry tipped up the Swede in his follow through. Adams led the protests with the rest of City’s backroom staff leaping to their feet in the away technical area, but referee Swarbrick remained unmoved.
Schurrle cut inside Snodgrass in a worrying echo of City’s charity towards Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford but Martin blocked the powerful strike.
The impressive Olsson again linked with Martin down City’s right before checking onto his left to whip in a cross the lunging Johnson was a yard from connecting with at the far post.
Chelsea skipper Terry towered above Turner at the opposite end but headed Lampard’s corner at Ruddy as Chelsea looked to reassert a degree of control.
City survived a major scare in the 32nd minute when Cole broke up a visiting counter after nipping between Snodgrass and Elmander to feed Matic, who slipped in Schurrle to swerve around Bennett but slam a right-foot strike against the base of Ruddy’s far post. Mohamed Salah then cut inside on the opposite flank but drilled a shot at the Norwich keeper.
City boldly flew straight back at the Blues, with Olsson just unable to climb high enough to connect with Martin’s driven cross.
Johnson’s left foot strike spiralled up off Terry for a corner Olsson lashed into the home terraces but Norwich continued to look at ease against the title-challengers in the closing stages of the opening period.
Mourinho’s displeasure at his side’s lacklustre efforts was underlined with a double change at the interval and Eden Hazard took three minutes to link with David Luiz but the Brazilian’s first time swerving right-foot strike hammered Ruddy’s bar from the edge of the Norwich penalty area.
Chelsea had their own penalty appeals rejected in the 54th minute when Tettey appeared to go through Schurrle to clear the danger inside his own box.
Hazard then tumbled under Bennett’s agricultural challenge but the assistant appeared to flag for an offside against Terry. Ivanovic’s protests earned him a yellow card in the aftermath with the home support once again howling for a spot kick.
City were now pinned deep inside their own territory with Elmander a distant advance option when the Canaries tried to lift the growing siege. Tettey foiled Matic from 20 yards before Luiz clipped over on the half-volley at the near post from the resulting corner.
Adams made his first move with Nathan Redmond replacing the Swede in the 69th minute. The teenage flier’s first involvement carved out a counter-attacking chance for Snodgrass, but the Scottish international dallied long enough for Cahill to produce a sliding deflection.
Ruddy parried Hazard’s strike from 16 yards after City’s commitment to throwing extra men forward almost proved their undoing.
Whittaker’s touch then diverted Schurrle’s slashing far-post volley as the Blues strived for a breakthrough. Johnson’s flick header was gathered by Schwarzer in the first of three additional minutes.
• Chelsea: Schwarzer, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole, Lampard (Luiz 45), Matic (Torres 73), Salah (Hazard 45), Willian, Schurrle, Ba. Subs (not used): Hilario, Kalas, Van Ginkel, Eto’o.
• Booking: Ivanovic (dissent 58)
• Norwich: Ruddy; Martin, R Bennett, Turner, Whittaker; Tettey, Snodgrass, Johnson, Howson, Olsson, Elmander (Redmond 69). Subs (not used): Bunn, Bassong, van Wolfswinkel, Fer, Hooper, E Bennett.
• Bookings: Ryan Bennett (time wasting 59); Turner (foul on Torres, 87); Olsson (time wasting, 90)
• Added on time: 2 minutes / 3 minutes
• Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)
• Attendance: 41,602 (3,078 away fans)