Barclays Premier League: Norwich City 0, Chelsea 0
14:48 21 January 2012
Norwich City produced a battling display to keep Chelsea’s multi-million pound stars at bay and earn a valuable Premier League point and their first clean sheet of the season.
The roar that greeted the final whistle at Carrow Road was more like that for a victory, and well-merited as the Canaries fought tooth and nail in their first goalless draw of the campaign.
Goalkeeper John Ruddy produced three excellent saves, one from Fernando Torres and two from Juan Mata, to keep City on terms, while Spanish World Cup winner Torres missed a golden chance to decide the game on the hour when he poked his shot wide.
City’s best efforts came in the opening half, when Grant Holt whistled a shot wide and Bradley Johnson’s deflected effort almost wrong-footed goalkeeper Petr Cech.
It was a much better effort from Norwich than they produced in high-profile home games against Arsenal and Tottenham, and the result means they have still not been doubled under manager Paul Lambert.
Chelsea lost England midfielder Frank Lampard 10 minutes before half-time with what looked like a calf injury.
Lambert made two changes after the 2-1 victory at West Bromwich Albion, restoring midfielder David Fox and striker Grant Holt to the starting line-up at the expense of Wes Hoolahan and Simeon Jackson, who were on the substitutes’ bench.
Fit-again full-back Marc Tierney could not force his way into the squad of 18 and there was still no place for defender Leon Barnett.
There was one change for Chelsea after the 1-0 win over Sunderland, with Daniel Sturridge in for Oriel Romeu. But there was not even a place on the bench for new £7m defender Gary Cahill, who arrived from Bolton last week.
City were defending the Barclay goal as steady rain arrived on kick-off, and Naughton was forced to concede the first corner under pressure from Bosingwa, Whitbread volleying clear from Lampard’s kick.
There was a promising break from the Canaries in the sixth minute when Russell Martin and Morison combined for Pilkington to cross towards the near post, where Cech was able only to parry the centre and Ramires had to slide in to stop Morison getting in a clear shot at goal.
A superb move almost provided City with the opening goal in the 10th minute when Morison turned Pilkington’s pass into the path of Holt, who whistled a left-foot shot just the wrong side of the post.
Mata volleyed over from a Lampard corner, half-cleared by Whitbread, as Chelsea hit back, then Torres squandered an opening when Mata found him on the right, the flag stayed down, but his poor cross was stabbed away by Whitbread.
Pilkington had a powerful shot headed away by Terry and a crossfield ball by Holt set up Morison on the right side of the penalty area, but against two defenders, he fired into the side netting.
Ruddy made an important save on 26 minutes, diving to his right to push Torres’ toe-poke round the post after Ramires found the striker in space.
A splendid pass by Fox gave Pilkington the chance to cross from the right, Holt getting in a header from beyond the far post but lacking the power to trouble Cech.
There was a hold-up 11 minutes before the break when Lampard went down, calling for treatment to his left leg. He quickly decided he was unable to continue and Malouda prepared to come on.
When play resumed, Surman set up Johnson for a shot that took a deflection off Terry and almost wrong-footed Cech, the keeper diving to his right to save.
Malouda replaced Lampard and as Chelsea pushed forward, Ruddy dived out to claim Sturridge’s cross at the feet of Torres.
Cech was next in action, clawing the ball away as Holt hooked it in from the right edge of the penalty area.
Ruddy did superbly again moments later to cut out Mata’s shot after Malouda had weaved his way into the Norwich area.
The keeper then had to claim a long-range effort from Meireles.
Mata wasted another opening when he fired over the top after Malouda had again put him through.
• Half-time: Norwich City 0, Chelsea 0
Two minutes after the break, Pilkington did superbly to get the better of Cole and Terry wide on the Norwich right but spoiled his good work with an overhit cross straight out of play.
Whitbread cut out a dangerous cross from Cole, and Luiz curled a shot over the top from Malouda as Chelsea threatened for the first time since the interval.
Torres fired over with a rather ambitious effort after 58 minutes, then he fired wide a minute later from Bosingwa’s cross after the full-back had left Surman trailing – an amazing miss from the Spanish star as he poked his shot the wrong side of the post.
Ruddy came to the rescue on the hour with a fine save from Mata at his near post after Sturridge’s diagonal pass set up the chance and Mata escaped the attention of Russell Martin.
The home crowd were furious moments later when a blatant handball by Meireles on the edge of the Chelsea area went unpunished as he blocked Holt’s attempt to flick the ball over his head. Referee Clattenburg waved play on, though how the officials missed it was a mystery.
Meireles curled a shot just over the top from the edge of the area midway through the half, but Luiz earned the derision of the home crowd for reacting theatrically to a challenge from Johnson, clutching his face when there appeared to be little or no contact.
Ruddy clutched a powerful drive from Meireles as Chelsea pressed again.
With 13 minutes to go, Torres departed after another blank afternoon, to be replaced by Lukaku.
City made a double change with 11 minutes to go, Crofts and Jackson replacing Fox and Morison, while Chelsea made their final change, Essien replacing Ramires.
Mata had another chance from Malouda’s pass, turning to hit a shot that glanced the outside of the post and may have brushed Ruddy’s fingers, though a goal-kick was given.
Cole’s volley was not too far wide five minutes from time as Chelsea still looked for a winner, then Malouda squeezed a shot just wide via a deflection off Crofts.
Naughton was caught by the boot of Mata as he made a timely clearance as the seconds ticked away.
In the final minute, Lambert made one last change with Bennett replacing Surman. His first touch was a poor clearance that fell to Malouda, but he blazed his shot high into the crowd.
• Result: Norwich City 0, Chelsea 0
• Norwich City: Ruddy; Russell Martin, Ayala, Whitbread, Naughton; Pilkington, Fox (Crofts, 79), Johnson, Surman (Bennett, 90); Morison (Jackson, 79), Holt. Subs (not used): Steer, Drury, Hoolahan, Wilbraham.
• Chelsea: Cech; Bosingwa, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Meireles; Ramires (Essien, 79), Lampard (Malouda, 37); Sturridge, Torres (Lukaku, 77), Mata. Subs (not used): Turnbull, Ivanovic, Bertrand, Romeu.
• Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)
• Attendance: 26,792