Norwich boss Paul Lambert admitted his side earned a “huge point” this afternoon, after City kept their first clean sheet of the season against the superstars of Chelsea at Carrow Road.
The Canaries matched their more illustrious opponents stride for stride and even though the Blues showed plenty of quality and attacking flair during the 90 minutes, City were well worth their 0-0 draw.
While Lambert’s men had to defend deep at times, with goalkeeper John Ruddy and the whole backline outstanding all afternoon, the Canaries looked threatening in attack as well, with Anthony Pilkington and Grant Holt causing the Blues plenty of problems. Make no mistake, this was a City performance of real substance.
“I thought we were excellent in the first 45 minutes but Chelsea had a lot of the ball in the second-half – which you’d expect them to do because they’re a really top side – and we defended exceptionally well,” said Canary chief Lambert.
“Ruddy was excellent and he’s playing really well at the moment but it wasn’t just him, everyone put their bodies on the line today. It’s a huge point.
“A couple of years ago, we were playing the likes of Yeovil and Stockport, no disrespect to them, and now we’re competing with Chelsea which is just incredible – I’m delighted with the players. In every game we give it a right good go and I’ve got nothing but praise for them.”
Chelsea started the brighter and forced a corner after three minutes but the first real chance went to the hosts on six minutes, when Steve Morison fed Pilkington inside the box. However, the angle was all wrong and his shot was blocked by Blues goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Four minutes later, a swift counter attack almost saw the Canaries take a shock lead and after some clever link-up play between Morison and Holt, the City No.9 twisted past David Luiz, only for Holt to drill a powerful effort just wide of Cech’s left-hand post.
Chelsea’s passing and movement was befitting of their ‘elite club’ status but there was no real cutting edge so far and on 20, a beautiful cross-field ball from Holt found Morison. But as with the earlier chance, the angle was against him and the City top scorer’s shot crashed into the side netting.
The Blues’ best chance came seven minutes later, and this time it was their opportunity to catch Norwich on the break. Ramires played in Torres and the £50 million man’s classy flick was tipped wide by Ruddy. Top marks to the City ‘keeper.
On 32 minutes, the Canaries were in the ascendency again and Holt did well to get his head on a deep Pilkington cross, only for Cech to gather the ball comfortably.
Lambert’s men almost had a huge slice of luck minutes later when Bradley Johnson’s shot from the edge of the box took a wicked deflection and in fairness, Cech did well to adjust his body and keep it out.
Norwich were, as always, showing plenty of guts and determination and there was no shortage of quality on display either. But the last five minutes of the half belonged to Andre Villas-Boas’ men, with two excellent chances falling to the impressive Juan Mata.
After some neat build-up play between the Spaniard and substitute Florent Malouda, Ruddy stood firm to block Mata’s effort on goal and the pair linked up again after a rare Russell Martin error played in the Blues No.10 via Malouda. Unfortuantely for the visitors, the former Valencia star could only shoot over the bar when well-placed inside the area.
City were bright and breezy at the start of the second period, with the outstanding Pilkington causing plenty of Chelsea headaches, and anyone who had bet on an easy Blues win looked set to go home empty handed.
Speculative efforts from Luiz and Torres apart, Chelsea were struggling to make an impression on Ruddy’s goal so far in the second 45. That, however, was to change just before the hour mark. Jose Bosingwa raced down the right-hand side and crossed into a packed City penalty area, only for Torres to poke his shot wide. It looked easier to score.
Two minutes later, Daniel Sturridge linked neatly with the ever-lively Mata, only for Ruddy to stop the Spanish international’s left-footed drive yet again.
While the Stamford Bridge club were growing into the half and showing flashes of their obvious quality, there was a real moment of controversy minutes later.
City striker Holt, who had been an absolute pest all afternoon, flicked the ball up on the edge of the box and to most of the packed Carrow Road crowd, it looked like Raul Meireles handled the ball while trying to intercept. But nothing was given and even though it may have been a free-kick rather than a penalty, referee Mark Clattenburg was not endearing himself to the Canary faithful.
From that point onwards, Chelsea shaded the possession stakes but Norwich were defending for their lives and as before, the Blues were having to try their luck from distance – with Meireles and Ramires failing to trouble Ruddy from long range.
They got a little closer on 81 when Malouda and Mata linked up inside the box again but the Chelsea No.10’s bobbled shot clipped the City post and for Blues boss Villas-Boas, it was destined to be one of those days.
Norwich: Ruddy; Martin, Whitbread, Ayala, Naughton; Pilkington, Fox (Crofts 79), Johnson, Surman (Bennett 90); Holt, Morison (Jackson 79).
Subs: Steer, Drury, Wilbraham, Hoolahan.