Barclays Premier League
Norwich City 0-0 Chelsea

 

Fernando Torres failed to find the net once more as he was beaten to the ball by man of the match John Ruddy (pictured above)

 

 

By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from Carrow Road 

 

Norwich City produced a rearguard defensive performance to pick up their first clean sheet of the season as a frustrated Chelsea's slim title hopes faded further.

Spanish striker Fernando Torres endured another miserable day as his profligate form continued in front of goal as a professional display from Norwich and in particular goalkeeper John Ruddy ensured a first shut-out of the season and a well-deserved point in a stalemate that maintained both sides' unbeaten starts to 2012 in the Premier League.

Two changes were made to the team by Norwich boss Paul Lambert from the one that beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at the Hawthorns a week ago with David Fox coming into midfield with Wes Hoolahan dropping to the bench while Simeon Jackson made way for Grant Holt in attack.

From the stuttering 1-0 victory over Sunderland, the visitors Chelsea made one change with striker Daniel Sturridge returning to the starting line-up meaning midfielder Oriol Romeu making way going to the bench where fit-again defender Branislav Ivanovic returned. The most interesting piece of team news was that England defender Gary Cahill, bought for £7 million this week from Bolton, didn't make the squad- he enjoyed watching hi new team in action from the stands with David Luiz keeping his place alongside John Terry.

Chelsea began imperiously with an exhibition of passing but the first chance of the game belonged to Norwich. Steve Morison set up Anthony Pilkington, whose shot from a tight angle was blocked by goalkeeper Petr Cech. The rebound almost fell perfectly for Morison, the Wales forward, but Ramires was there just in time to poke clear. Norwich came even closer in the 10th minute when Morison set up Holt, who fired just wide after getting past Luiz. Both sides have won their first two league matches to the new year.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

The goalless draw means that Chelsea have only won five of their eleven Premier League away games this season although they have more points now (41) than at this stage last season (36).

Norwich came even closer in the 10th minute when Morison set up Holt, who fired just wide after getting past Luiz. Juan Mata fired over from the edge of the box as Chelsea tried to regain their earlier poise but when Torres tried to set Sturridge up in front of goal he found only a Norwich defender. Holt, whose goal against Chelsea in September was the first of seven he has got so fasr this season, and Morison combined again as Luiz was again made to look second rate but Morison's shot from a tight angle hit only the side-netting.

Torres was working hard and was denied a 27th-minute opener by John Ruddy, the Norwich goalkeeper, who got his fingertips to an effort from the outside of the Spaniard's boot that would have gone in otherwise.

Norwich boss Paul Lambert will be cautiously thinking of the "glass being half empty" feeling- saying this week that his side are only trying to avoid being relegated to the Championship- but Blackpool finished 19th with the same amount of points at this stage last season as Norwich had before this match- 28.

Frank Lampard limped off in the 35th minute with what appeared to be a calf injury and Chelsea almost fell behind before Florent Malouda came on to replace him. Bradley Johnson's shot took a deflection off Terry but Cech was able to readjust in time to save and the half ended with Ruddy denying Mata and then Raul Meireles and Mata firing a clear chance over after doing all the hard work himself.

Chelsea, who have won their last five league and cup games against Norwich scoring eighteen and conceding only two, will have known that no club outside the top five have scored more goals than Norwich- with Blackburn the only team fitting that criteria who can match their 32 goals.

Torres, now without a goal in 17 games, went close in an even first half but toe-poked a glorious chance wide somehow in the second period that the Blues dominated however Norwich stayed firm throughout with the back four defending superbly- with outstanding performances from goalkeeper Ruddy and centre-backs Zak Whitbread and Daniel Ayala- who have started the last four league games together.

Grant Holt shot narrowly wide for the hosts before the interval after a terrific piece of forward play with his strike partner Morison, who has adapted so well to life in the Premier League, sending Holt away who smartly touched the ball away from David Luiz before shooting just past the post with Cech getting nowhere near it if it had found the corner. But goalkeeper John Ruddy had to be in inspired form to help earn his side their first clean sheet of the season.

A surprising statistic justified the preferrence for both teams to play football and the nature of the game being played on the field with neither side committing a foul in the opening 45 minutes.

Scottish born Ruddy, sent-off in the corresponding fixture this season against Chelsea in the defeat back in August, pulled off several classy stops as an increasingly desperate home side battled manfully to keep out the visitors after the break.

With four of the top five meeting on Sunday with leaders Manchester City hosting Tottenham and Arsenal playing Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium, the Londoners knew they had a wonderful chance to reduce the eleven point gap on Roberto Mancini's league leaders City.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Norwich still have the better head-to-head record against Chelsea- with eleven wins, ten defeats and now ten draws while it was their first clean sheet since the end of last April when they clinched promotion to the Premier League with a 1-0 Championship victory at Portsmouth.

But Chelsea lacked urgency before half-time, and when they did step up the pace, Ruddy twice saved brilliantly from Juan Mata and also denied Ramires when one-on-one. Raul Meireles also shot over the crossbar wildly while Torres squandered the game's best opportunity when he shot wide from ten yards following great work on the right by Jose Bosingwa. The outstanding moment and best chance of a first half also fell to the Spaniard when he forced a superb fingertip save from Ruddy.

An incisive counter-attack involving David Luiz, Frank Lampard and Ramires freed Torres but his brilliant, curled effort with the outside of his right foot was just kept out by the home keeper. Luiz fired just over after the restart following an air kick from Torres, who then connected with his next try but could not hit the target. Torres should have made it 1-0 just before the hour mark when Jose Bosingwa beat Andrew Surman and supplied the perfect cross. Daniel Ayala came out to challenge but Torres should have done better than to poke wide from seven yards.

Those two chances just about summed up the Spaniard's day and indeed his Chelsea career, brilliant in one moment and woeful the next.

Before shutting out Chelsea, the Canaries had conceded 38 goals in 21 Premier League games while only Stoke City, on the opening day of the season in a goalless draw at the Britannia Stadium, and QPR- who beat them in the London derby in October and who they meet in their next match in the FA Cup fourth round at Loftus Road- are the only two sides to prevent the Blues from scoring this season on their league travels.

The same cannot be said of the Canaries, who thoroughly deserved a draw for a stirring rearguard performance in which Zak Whitbread and Daniel Ayala in central defence were outstanding throughout with their organisation.

Unsurprisingly, Chelsea looked to Mata for their creativity and the Spaniard once again did not disappoint. He teed up several half chances and close calls and also shot over after a mazy 40-yard run and was always involved as Chelsea started to boss possession and create chances at will after the break. Mata came off the bench on his debut to net against Norwich in the 3-1 win for Chelsea earlier in the season at Stamford Bridge back in the first month of the campaign.

But despite racking up the chances, they could not find a way past Ruddy whose heroics ensured Norwich have moved up to ninth place in the Premier League, twelve points clear of the relegation zone- only six points away from catching Liverpool who are in seventh.

 

ANALYSIS
Adam Higgins
The Football Site- Chief Football Editor

"It was a fairly even match in the first half- it was mainly played out in midfield for the first 45 minutes with not even as much as a foul, free-kick or an offside call to make. There were a couple of half chances at best at either end. The game had more about it in the second half but fair play to Norwich who kept going and kept Chelsea at arms length throughout. There were some outstanding performances out there in yellow jerseys with John Ruddy top of the list and man of the match. He was really good today and he deserves his first clean sheet for the way he played today and throughout the season in matches. Chelsea had their chances and you cannot help but feel that if this was a Manchester United or Manchester City coming here needing to win to keep up in the title race that despite how difficult Norwich made it for them- they would have found a winner especially with all the chances they had."

 

 


Saturday 21st January 2012

Barclays Premier League

Carrow Road

 

Norwich City 0-0 Chelsea                        KO 12:45pm           (HT 0-0)

 

Norwich City:  1 Ruddy- 9/10, 2 R Martin (C)- 8/10, 6 Whitbread- 8.5/10, 26 Ayala- 8.5/10, 25 Naughton- 8.5/10, 12 Pilkington- 7/10, 15 Fox- 7/10 (Crofts 79- 3/10), 4 Johnson- 7/10, 11 Surman- 8/10 (Bennett 90- 1/10), 5 Morison- 8.5/10 (Jackson 79- 5/10), 9 Holt- 9/10.

Subs not used: 31 Steer, 3 Drury, 14 Hoolahan, 21 Wilbraham

Booked:      None

 

Chelsea:  1 Cech- 6/10, 17 Bosingwa- 7/10, 26 Terry (C)- 6/10, 4 David Luiz- 6/10, 3 A Cole- 8/10, 7 Ramires- 6/10, 8 Lampard- 5/10 (Malouda 37- 5/10), 16 Merieles- 5/10 (Essien 79- 4/10), 10 Mata- 7/10, 9 Torres- 5.5/10 (Lukaku 77- 4/10), 23 Sturridge- 6/10.

Subs not used: 22 Turnbull, 2 Ivanovic, 34 Bertrand, 6 Romeu

Booked:      None

 

My Man of the Match:    John Ruddy (Norwich City)- Rating 9/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:   Raul Merieles (Chelsea)- Rating 5/10

 

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)- 9/10
Attendance: 26,792 

 

 

Match Facts

Possession: Norwich City- 41%                Chelsea- 59%

Shots: Norwich City- 5                     Chelsea- 19

Shots on target: Norwich City- 3                 Chelsea- 9

Shots off target: Norwich City- 2                 Chelsea- 10

Corners: Norwich City- 1                     Chelsea- 11

Fouls: Norwich City- 5                     Chelsea- 4

Offside: Norwich City- 0                     Chelsea- 1

Assists: Norwich City- None                  Chelsea- None

 

 


Norwich City manager Paul Lambert

"We defended resolutely when we had to. We have an unbelievable spirit in the group and I thought we were well worthy of a point today. We certainly gave as good as we got, especially in the first half where we showed great commitment, we fought for the cause well, got a lot of tackles in and created one or two chances of our own so I was really pleased by the first half performance and my message at half-time was more of the same and that is what we got. My lads were brilliant- we had good fitness and energy levels to keep going right to the end, the substitutes knew what they were doing when they came on. It was rearguard action at times but it was a good team display where everybody put a shift in and worked incredibly hard. John Ruddy was excellent, but the whole group put their bodies on the line when they had to, and it was a huge point for us. We didn't have a lot of chances to score in the game and it is a rare thing for us not to score a goal at home. It has also been rare for us to keep clean sheets this season. To get the first one is pleasing and hopefully we can keep a few more. When you are playing that level of a team, you have to keep your shape because otherwise they will pick you off."


Click here for the full post-match interview with Canaries boss Paul Lambert

 


Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas

"We were punished for our lack of efficiency to find the back of the net. We cannot complain with the amount of opportunities and chances we had today. The first half was split fairly even and it was a nothing sort of match up until half-time with a not a lot happening at all. The game was played in the middle of the park, but in the second half we were totally dominant I thought in all the areas especially in possession. We created a lot of opportunities but couldn't find the back of the net. We have to continue to create chances, this is the most important thing. John Ruddy had a fantastic game today in goal and he will be man of the match and rightly so- but it shows how much we showed in front of goal. A point is not bad considering Norwich are a good organised side but not enough for our title challenge. Gary Cahill trained with the team for three days and there are team principles to learn first, but he had a very good week and showed all his qualities. He should be ready to play next week. Frank Lampard [who went off injured in the first half] has a muscle tear. I am not 100% sure how serious it is, but from what I have been told it is not that bad so he should be alright for the next match as well."  


Click here to listen to the post-match thoughts of Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas

 

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