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Norwich City's visit to Stamford Bridge was supposed to be something of a stroll in the park for Chelsea, and so it proved. After a strong win against Nordsjaelland earlier in the week, there was some fear that complacency might slip in, but after an early scare, the Blues sauntered through the match, playing some scintillating attacking football and eventually being rewarded with a 4-1 win for their efforts.
We had the brighter start, but thanks to some shambolic defending it was the visitors who took a shock lead in the 11th minute. With the wide midfielders seemingly refusing to track back, it was all too easy for Norwich to hit us hard down the flanks. And with the hulking figure of Grant Holt looming in the centre, that's a suboptimal situation. So it proved.
Wes Hoolahan found space on the Norwich left, with Branislav Ivanovic far too central to cut out the eventual cross. Stranger than Ivanovic's positioning, however, was Ashley Cole's, with the left back neglecting to pick up Leon Barnett at the far post. The ball was duly knocked back to Holt, who'd hung back away from John Terry, and the centre forward wellied it past Petr Cech to make it 1-0.
Stamford Bridge gave a collective blink, but Chelsea were unmoved. Norwich led for all of three minutes before Fernando Torres restored parity. The striker had contrived to waste a brilliant chance before Holt's goal, managing to turn a one on one against John Ruddy into a fantastic demonstration of 'how to lose the ball', but a Juan Mata backheel set up Ivanovic for a cross, he made no mistake, stealing in ahead of Sebastian Bassong to draw the Blues level.
And Torres would play a significant role in what was the eventual winner as well, getting the coveted 'Russell Martin head assist' when his attempted bicycle kick was blocked by the Canaries defender. The rebound fell kindly for Frank Lampard, who smashed a volley past Ruddy and straight into the bottom corner. Oscar did pretty well to avoid getting hit by that.
Norwich were not disheartened by going behind -- their early goal had them convinced that Chelsea were open enough (and Grant Holt-prone enough) to have a go, and they continued to attack whenever they had the opportunity. Alexander Tettey somehow managed to turn a free header into an aerial attack on the corner flag, but the fact that he even had that chance would have been the cause of some consternation on the Blues' bench.
But the Canaries attacking meant that Chelsea would be able to break at them with speed, and that's exactly what happened when Mata was able to dispossess Hoolahan deep in the Chelsea half. With Torres ahead of him and Eden Hazard to the left, Mata checked back and then eviscerated the Norwich defence with a wonderful through ball to Hazard. The Belgian finished first-time to extend the lead.
The first half end with Holt reminding Petr Cech that he existed with a header just over the bar, but it was abundantly clear that it was Chelsea's game, and only question was how many more the Blues would get before full time.
It became apparent that the officiating crew didn't want too many more. Twice Eden Hazard was brought down in the box in what looked like stonewall penalty shouts only to be denied for no apparent reason. Terry was dragged down on a corner -- nothing doing there either. The penalty calls weren't the only pieces of poor refereeing in the match, either, as Bradley Johnson somehow got away with spiking both John Obi Mikel and David Luiz without so much as a foul called against him.
Had the game been closer, the officials would have been more than an annoyance. Thankfully, the points were already in the bag. Torres was denied on a one-on-one via a good save from Ruddy, but Chelsea were able to get on the scoresheet shortly thereafter via the right boot of Ivanovic, who volleyed in at the near post following Mata's knockdown of an Oscar cross.
That was the be the final goal of the afternoon, but that wasn't for lack of trying. Chelsea were playing some really pretty football and were completely in control of the match. Cesar Azpilicueta was brought on for his Premier League debut, with Oriol Romeu joining him on the pitch shortly thereafter.
Meanwhile, the rest of the squad pressed for a fifth, and things got a little bit silly towards the end -- the final passage of play before full time saw David Luiz and John Terry both hanging around in Ruddy's penalty box in open play, and but for a few lucky breaks the Blues would have added to their tally. Still 4-1 isn't too bad a result, and with Everton dropping points at Wigan, Chelsea have managed to extend their lead at the top of the table to four points.
Bring on that international break.
Chelsea's man of the match?
Eden Hazard (15 votes)
Fernando Torres (38 votes)
Frank Lampard (10 votes)
Juan Mata (505 votes)
Branislav Ivanovic (15 votes)
Other (10 votes)
593 total votes