Another heavy defeat – this one at the hands of the European champions and league leaders, Chelsea – means it’s now no wins in seven for the Canaries.
The last time they began a Premier League season in similar vein was in 2004/05. And we all know what happened then.
Chris Hughton’s wish – that pride should be restored – was adhered to in part, but the quality of the Londoners was too much for Norwich, who ended the 90 minutes looking a well-beaten and ragged outfit.
It was no surprise that, following last week’s mauling by Liverpool, Hughton made five changes to his starting XI. The one change in the back-four was Sebastien Bassong, who made his much-anticipated return alongside Leon Barnett, in place of Michael Turner. Also out went Andrew Surman, Robert Snodgrass, Steve Morison and Simeon Jackson in favour of Alexander Tettey, Elliot Bennett, Wes Hoolahan and club captain Grant Holt.
In what was effectively a 4-5-1, Bradley Johnson took up the wide-left slot in order, one assumes, to provide solidity and limit the marauding runs of Ivanovic.
With the clear intention of denying Chelsea the time and space afforded to the Merseysiders, it was imperative that Norwich started positively… and that they pretty much did.
They were still thankful however to Fernando Torres who could – and probably should – have dealt City an early blow, but he dwelt too long on Mata’s through ball and gave Barnett a chance to block.
On ten minutes Norwich’s decent start turned into a good one when Holt hammered a half-volley past Petr Cech. A deep cross from Johnson and a cushion header from Barnett later, he found himself in a yard of space just inside the box and duly delivered No2 for the season.
Unfortunately for City the lead was short-lived and when Torres got the jump on Barnett – from an Ivanovic cross – his thumping header gave John Ruddy no chance.
In what evolved into a very open half – Hughton, no doubt, would have thought too open – City more than played their part and from Hoolahan’s cross, Tettey should have restored their lead, but instead screwed a header horribly wide.
Some neat inter-play from the Chelsea trio of Oscar, Mata and Hazard – who provided a continuous threat throughout – carved an opening for Torres midway through the first period. Russell Martin managed to get a block on the initial shot, but the rebound was smashed home by Lampard – Grant Holt style – to put the Blues 2-1 ahead.
With the home side starting to enjoy a greater share of possession, 2-1 became 3-1 when Norwich were hit by a lightening break from their own corner. A thumping clearing from header from John Terry, a lost 50/50 between Hoolahan and Mata, and a slide-rule pass from Mata later, and Hazard was sent clear to side-foot, right-footed, past Ruddy with ease.
With a comfortable, two-goal cushion, Chelsea ended the first half in total control and this pattern was continued into the second period.
The home side’s attacking midfield trio continued to pop the ball around with ease and City were forced – for large swathes of the game – to chase shadows. Not easy to watch for the magnificent, travelling Yellow Army but still they roared their team forward as they looked, forlornly, to find an avenue back into the game.
Effort, again, was not in short supply but lack of quality at both extremities of the pitch again cost City dearly. Bassong clearly did make a difference, but he alone can’t be relied upon to keep the likes of Chelsea – and the attacking threat their multi-millions have procured – at bay.
Holt – looking much more akin to his old self – ploughed a very lone furrow, but still did enough to let Messrs Terry and Luiz know that they had been in a game. Hughton will be hoping that a mini-run of two goals in as many games will see his captain return to his scoring habits of last season.
With 15 minutes remaining – and just when it looked as if Norwich would have to settle for the same score-line as last year’s visit to the King’s Road – Ivanovic thundered a close range volley past Ruddy’s left hand to make it 4-1.
At the time this seemed a little harsh on City, but should really put into perspective when one considers the three decent penalty shouts that Chelsea had during the second half. In short – it could have been even worse.
So another unhappy visit to The Smoke and, if Team Hughton didn’t have enough to ponder, they now have to prepare their side for the visit of a rejuvenated Arsenal a week Saturday.
If there is a plus side, it is still relatively early days. But the sooner we stop shipping goals and get that first win the better.
I’m afraid to say it has reached the stage where you start checking the league table and the results of those around us. 19th by the way…
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