Pulisic, Giroud combine to boost Chelsea’s Champions League stock

Chelsea - Norwich City recap
Photo by ADAM DAVY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
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Relegated but resolute Norwich City took Chelsea the distance but couldn’t find an answer to Olivier Giroud’s goal near halftime in a 1-0 win for the Blues at Stamford Bridge.

American winger Christian Pulisic assisted Giroud’s goal just before halftime but Chelsea wasted myriad chances to put the game to bed.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch versus Norwich City ]

The win boosts Chelsea four points clear of fourth-place Manchester United and fifth-place Leicester City, with both teams playing Thursday.

Norwich City remains dead last with 21 points.

STREAM CHELSEA – NORWICH CITY FULL MATCH REPLAY


Three things we learned

1. Chelsea on precipice of Champions League qualification: It wasn’t easy, but the Blues’ win carries them four points ahead of Leicester City and Manchester United before the fourth- and fifth-place teams stage their 36th matches of the season. Liverpool and Wolves are tough matches left on Chelsea’s docket but the Decision Day match-up between Leicester and United means one of those two can only claim six or seven of nine remaining available points.

2.Β Pulisic, Giroud of similar minds but finishers still needed — It was another good day for Chelsea’s favorite American, who assisted Giroud’s stoppage time opener and was plenty involved as an integral part of the side’s build-up play. Pulisic has set up Giroud for the second time this year, having assisted the Frenchman’s opener against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup, and the two share a flair for the fanciful. Witness Pulisic scooping a pass to Giroud in the 74th minute before they reversed roles moments later for a chance that was defied by Tim Krul.

Read the full “Pulisic Watch” here.

We’ve seen the troubling lack of finish before. Hakim Ziyech was watching from the stands and Timo Werner is on his way, but Chelsea’s season story was again on display as the match stayed 1-0 into the final 20 minutes. The Blues took 16 shots in the first 70 minutes and SofaScore credited them with three ‘big chances’ during that time. Still, it was 1-0 and the Champions League footing continued to hang in the balance. The Blues finished with a 21-2 edge in shots and the match’s only five shots on target. A second in the goal would’ve been a relief.

3. Norwich confirmed 20th: The lack of a win means Norwich can only collect 27 points at most this season, and 19th-place Aston Villa is on to 30. The Canaries couldn’t catch a break this year despite collecting three of their 21 points against Manchester City.

Man of the Match:

Cesar Azpilicueta — Chelsea’s captain was buzzing down the right from Moment No. 1. The serially-underappreciated back had two clearances, two blocked shots, three interceptions, three tackles, and whipped in a series of crosses.


Chelsea – Norwich City recap

Ruben Loftus-Cheek stooped to turn a Cesar Azpilicueta cross into the side of the net in the third minute as Chelsea came out fighting.

Olivier Giroud forced a save out of Tim Krul in the 21st minute, Norwich’s compact defense limited Chelsea’s paths to goal.

Pulisic turned a Marcos Alonso pass into the outside of the side netting in the 28th minute, and Giroud flubbed a good Azpilicueta set-up moments later.

Chelsea had set up camp in the Norwich end by the half-hour mark, Azpilicueta flicking a corner kick off the far post.

Krul made a great save when Pulisic swiveled and hit a powerful shot in the 36th.

Pulisic helped Chelsea ahead when he ran into the left corner. Marcos Alonso slipped him through, the American then crossing for Giroud to power home.

Pulisic had been plenty involved in build-up play and tried for the home run with a cute pass into the 18 that Giroud couldn’t reach.

As if on cue, the American then charged into the box for a looped pass from Giroud and slapped it toward goal for Krul to push toward Klose for a clearance.

Giroud nearly scored again in the 86th minute before subbing off.