Chelsea have put their destiny in others’ hands. By failing to beat relegation-threatened Norwich City at Stamford Bridge, the Blues’ title hopes rest on Liverpool dropping points against Crystal Palace on Monday. And should that happen, Chelsea will need to root for Aston Villa to beat Manchester City come Wednesday.
As for Norwich, they survive to see another day – but safety still looks unlikely. They’ll face Arsenal on the final day, and the Gunners have nothing left to play for, but the problem is Sunderland. The Black Cats have two games left, against West Brom and Swansea, and considering the Canaries’ -32 goal difference, almost certainly need just a point.
In the first half, Chelsea simply didn’t look like a team set for a challenge. Rather, they looked like a side broken by being knocked out of the Champions League midweek. Understandable, but it didn’t help that José Mourinho decided to rest the likes of Eden Hazard and David Luiz.
André Schürrle had a go in the third minute, but it was Norwich who could very well have been up before 15 minutes were out. Martin Olsson had no trouble slipping past an oblivious Ashley Cole to get on to the end of a pass from Bradley Johnson. Rushing in to save Cole’s blushes, John Terry tripped up Olsson, bringing him down inside the area. Neil Swarbrick waved away penalty appeals, while Neil Adams was absolutely livid on the sidelines.
Shortly thereafter, Demba Ba messed up a glorious chance to put the home side in front. The forward, free on the left, had two blue shirts available inside the area. However, the cross from Ba was terrible, and the ball collided with goalkeeper John Ruddy.
Around the half-hour mark, the woodwork declared itself a Canaries fan, doing its part to keep out a curling shot from Schürrle. Minutes later, Ruddy saved another shot from the German.
Johnson very nearly gave his side the lead going into the break. In the 40th minute, Terry just barely got a piece of a shot from the midfielder, but it was enough to deflect it out for the corner. The sides went into the locker rooms locked in a goalless draw.
Mourinho, having apparently remembered his side was still in the title race, made a double change to start the second half. Off came Mohamed Salah and Frank Lampard, on came Eden Hazard and David Luiz.
The change was immediate, with Chelsea having a much greater spring in their step. After just three minutes, the post had to bail out Norwich once more, this time denying a shot from David Luiz.
Then came Chelsea’s time to shout for a penalty…twice. First Branislav Ivanović and Schürrle both went down inside the area. A few minutes later, it appeared that Ryan Bennett went in recklessly on Hazard, who tumbled over. But with the offside flag already up, Swarbrick barely blinked.
Chelsea continued to ramp up the pressure, but somehow, Norwich held on. A rare advance on Mark Schwarzer’s goal looked like it might end with the ball in the back of the net, but an excellent challenge from Gary Cahill stopped Robert Snodgrass from getting his shot in.
The Blues kept coming, attacking in waves, but for once, luck was on Norwich’s side. A brilliant shot from Hazard prompted a terrific save from Ruddy. Moments later, a first-time volley from Schürrle was deflected out for a corner.
Chelsea: Schwarzer; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Lampard (David Luiz), Matic (Torres 73); Salah (Hazard), Willian, Schurrle; Ba
Norwich City: Ruddy; Martin, R Bennett, Turner, Whittaker; Tettey; Snodgrass, Johnson, Howson, Olsson; Elmander (Redmond 69)
Subs: Bunn, Bassong, van Wolfswinkel, Fer, Hooper, E Bennett, Redmond