Norwich City 1-3 Chelsea: Substitutes to the rescue as Blues avoid more road woes (Video)

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Norwich fought back in the second half to level the score, but Chelsea win the day as substitutes Eden Hazard and Willian score quickfire goals late to give Jose Mourinho his first away win of the season at Carrow Road on Sunday.

Chelsea fans will be breathing a sigh of relief after it looked they’d be once again held in check away from Stamford Bridge.

The visitors struck early to stun Norwich and set the tone. The third minute saw a fantastic long ball from behind the mid line find the feet of Ba in the box.  The striker brilliantly pirouetted and laid off to Oscar who couldn’t miss the far corner.

The Brazilian’s hot start to the season continues as he picked up his fourth goal of the season in all competitions.

Ba nearly grabbed Chelsea’s second in the 13th minute from a very tight angle but Norwich keeper John Ruddy made a diving save to deny.  The English netminder is seeking to impress his international boss Roy Hodgson in order to take advantage of fellow countryman Joe Hart’s poor form and see a chance in the upcoming qualifiers.

The Senegalese striker proved an imposing physical presence early, something Chelsea has been missing up front to start the year.  His strength and skill on the ball will certainly have impressed Jose Mourinho, who is looking for consistency up front.

Norwich, however, slowly worked to press back into the game, and finished the first half strong in the attacking half.

They continued their good play into the second half, and it nearly paid dividends early.  In the 59th minute, the ball came in from the midfield to Robert Snodgrass at the top of the box, whose first touch popped over to van Wolfswinkel in the middle.  The Dutch striker attempted to get to the ball, but John Terry’s physical challenge prevented him from doing so. Van Wolfswinkel appealed for a penalty, but referee Neil Swarbrick waved off the shouts.

source: Reuters
Anthony Pilkington’s header appeared for much of the second half to be the breakthrough Norwich needed to secure points.

They would be vindicated in the 68th minute when Anthony Pilkington brought them level. The ball came into the right side of the box, and with the flick of his head van Wolfswinkel did well to direct it into a dangerous area.  Pilkington was there waiting, and beat David Luiz in the air – not a small task – to head home past Cech.

The goal opened things up a bit, but the Norwich defense clamped down and held as Chelsea could muster few serious chances to go back ahead.  Things were looking bleak until the 85th minute, when the Canaries did eventually break to the fresh legs off the Chelsea bench.

First, Eden Hazard came on for an injured Ashley Cole after the equalizer, and it proved dividends.  Again, a long ball on the counter did the trick, this time in the 85th minute.  Oscar, playing on the wing much of the night as he rotated with Juan Mata, played in Hazard who beat Alexander Tettey back and got the ball to trickle over the line after Ruddy got a touch.

The lead was solidified just a single minute later, when Willian opened his Premier League account with a stunning curling effort from outside the box, leaving Ruddy with no chance and Chelsea with a 3-1 lead.

The win propels Chelsea up into third place for the time being, with Arsenal and Tottenham still to play.  For Norwich, they will be ruing not maintaining a hold on the point it took them much of the match to recover, and they remain in 17th place with seven points.

GOALS:

Norwich City – Pilkington 68′
Chelsea –
Oscar 4′, Hazard 85′, Willian 86′

LINEUPS:

Norwich City – Ruddy; Martin, Bassong, Turner, Olsson; Howson, Tetty, Fer; Pilkington, Snodgrass (Redmond, 81′); van Wolfswinkel (Hooper, 73′).

Chelsea – Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole (Hazard, 75′); Ramires, Lampard; Oscar, Mata (Willian, 81′), Schurrle; Ba (Eto’o, 73′).

Watch Live: Southampton vs. Tottenham Hotspur

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Hugo Lloris and Christian Eriksen miss out as sickness-hit Tottenham Hotspur visits struggling Southampton at St. Mary’s on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

That opens up spots in the lineup for Michel Vorm and Moussa Sissoko, as Spurs aim to go level on points with fourth-place Liverpool.

Saints dipped into the drop zone when Stoke City won on Saturday, but will sit 14th if they can spring a home win over Spurs.

Mauricio Pellegrino is giving Mario Lemina and Manolo Gabbiadini, as well as in-form James Ward-Prowse, the starters’ chance to stop the rot. Southampton is winless in 10 league matches, but has drawn three of the last five.

LINEUPS

Southampton: McCarthy, Cedric, Stephens, Hoedt, Bertrand, Lemina, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Tadic, Hojbjerg, Gabbiadini. Subs: Forster, Pied, Bednarek, Davis, Boufal, Redmond, Obafemi.

Tottenham Hotspur: Vorm, Aurier, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Dembele, Sissoko, Dele, Son, Kane. Subs: Gazzaniga, Foyth, Trippier, Walker-Peters, Wanyama, Lamela, Llorente.

Making sense of the Silva firing: Should’ve let him walk?

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Watford fired manager Marco Silva on Sunday, blaming Everton’s recruitment of the Portuguese boss for his failure, and it seems his replacement has already been identified as Javi Gracia.

I mean, holy smoke: So much for “easy like Sunday morning.”

The Hornets have been poor for some time, and their drop from chasing an unlikely European position to a spot on the fringes of the relegation race does stretch back to time Everton was repeatedly asking to hire Silva.

Funny thing: Perhaps letting him walk would’ve been the right decision.

What Silva did in the first quarter of this season and his lauded attempt to save Hull City last season may recall his overachievement at Estoril in Portugal, but the 40-year-old worked wonders at league powers Sporting CP and Olympiacos.

In the case of the latter, Silva led Thrylos to an absurd record of 38W-3D-7L before quitting after one season.

There’s another piece of the puzzle to consider, too: Watford under owner Gino Pozzo has been quick to change manager, which is a sign the club values — to quote longtime Buffalo basketball coach Reggie Witherspoon — “Jims and Joes more than x’s and o’s.”

As Sam Allardyce, the man who was hired by Everton, has joined Ronald Koeman as bosses unable to get the Toffees’ talented roster humming, it’s worth asking whether both Watford and Everton would’ve been better off had the Silva “transfer” went down at Goodison Park.

Watford has eight losses in 11 matches, handing three points to a variety of teams who’ve struggled to find wins this season: Swansea City, Brighton and Hove Albion, and Huddersfield Town. The Hornets have also drawn Southampton.

Everton under both Koeman and Allardyce has done the opposite: the Toffees have too much talent to religiously fail against the lower clubs. This season, which also saw a short run for caretaker boss David Unsworth, their wins are over Stoke City, Bournemouth, Watford, West Ham, Huddersfield Town, Newcastle and Swansea.

The Toffees big slump has seen a pair of draws with woeful West Bromwich Albion and a loss at Bournemouth.

Which brings us back to Watford under Silva. Despite its long slump, the club is performing in a way more suited for Everton’s talent than the Hornets’ bunch (which certainly isn’t poor). Consider:

Consider that Watford has 49.5 percent possession on the season, behind only Man City, Arsenal, Spurs, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Southampton (Everton has 46.4 and that number has regressed under Allardyce).

Also, Watford is ahead of Everton in pass completion percentage, shots per game, goals, shots allowed per game, and dribbles per game.

All this with the Toffees getting some of the finest goalkeeper performances in the league from Jordan Pickford. His 81 saves are second to Lukasz Fabianski and his seven in the six-yard box are joint-top with Mat Ryan.

So, yeah, Everton probably had the right idea in trying to get Silva, who was obviously interested in the job. The Toffees’ buys of Cenk Tosun and Theo Walcott are only going to up the ante at Goodison Park, and Allardyce does not have the record of getting talent to reach its potential (at least not in a decade).

Everton’s top performers this year according to advanced stats sites WhoScored and Squawka are ranked 82nd in the Premier League (Mason Holgate) and 103rd in the league (Ashley Williams), respectively.

All this goes to not just say that Silva has done a decent job at Watford, but beg why they’ve decided to fire the boss midway through a transfer window. And considering the Hornets would’ve received compensation of some sort for the move, it’s even more of a head scratcher

Multiple reports: Watford set to hire Gracia as manager

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Watford looks set to appoint Javi Gracia to its managerial position, hours after firing Marco Silva and blaming Everton for the manager.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point, still five points clear of the drop after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Latest: Sunday medicals for Mkhitaryan, Sanchez

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan has agreed to join Arsenal from Manchester United, clearing the path for Alexis Sanchez to join the Old Trafford set.

[ MORE: 2 Robbies on the deal ]

The BBC is reporting that both players will undergo medicals at their proposed new clubs on Sunday ahead of a straight swap deal.

Sanchez, 29, has scored 80 goals for Arsenal since arriving before the 2014-15 campaign, including 30 last season.

Mkhitaryan turns 30 this summer, and has struggled at Manchester United since posting five assists in his first three matches of the season.

[ MORE: Watford sacks Silva ]

He was, however, a combination of Sanchez and Mesut Ozil in his final season at Borussia Dortmund, scoring 23 goals with 32 assists.

This could be win-win, as Mkhitaryan at his best is a like-for-like replacement for Mesut Ozil should the German leave in the summer and Sanchez is a more proven PL commodity (though his attitude should be a major question for the United room).