Chelsea’s impressive start to the season continues after we came from behind to earn a convincing win against Norwich at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The visitors went in front early through forward Grant Holt, but Fernando Torres quickly levelled with a fine header, and 10 minutes later we were ahead when Frank Lampard rattled home a superb half-volley.
A swift counter-attack from Juan Mata allowed him to create a third for Eden Hazard, and Branislav Ivanovic smashed a fourth in the second half to maintain our unbeaten start to the campaign and move us four points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Roberto Di Matteo made three changes to the side that beat FC Nordsjaelland on Tuesday night, with Hazard and John Terry both back in the team, and John Mikel Obi recalled to play his 250th Chelsea game.
Those three replaced Victor Moses, Gary Cahill and Ramires, all of whom were on the bench. Hazard started on the left, with in-form Mata on the right with the licence to cut inside. Ashley Cole also started despite making the headlines in the newspapers.
Norwich, beaten 5-2 by Liverpool last weekend, were much-changed, with former Spurs centre-back Sebastien Bassong returning in defence, and last season’s top scorer and captain Grant Holt leading the attack.
Chelsea’s bench included Cesar Azpilicueta, who would make a late appearance for a league debut.
Chelsea should have been in front inside three minutes, when Fernando Torres beat the offside trap and was set free by Mikel’s lofted pass. The striker ran on, but then inexplicably opted to try and turn into a crowded penalty area rather than shoot with his stronger right foot. The hesitation allowed Bassong in to block.
It was not long before we were made to pay, as Holt fired Norwich in front on 10 minutes, striking hard and low past a helpless Petr Cech after Leon Barnett had nodded Wes Hoolahan’s cross down. The visitors had been afforded far too much space both in delivering and meeting the cross, and Holt was typically uncompromising with his blasted finish.
Torres had some making up to do, and was quickly demonstrating his instinctive best as he headed Chelsea level three minutes later. Branislav Ivanovic combined with Mata to whip a cross into the box from the right, and the former Liverpool hitman was on hand to meet the ball and direct it hard into John Ruddy’s bottom right-hand corner. Honours even and Torres forgiven for his earlier indecision.
Most would have expected the equaliser to settle the nerves around Stamford Bridge, but defensively the Blues still looked incredibly unorganised. Hoolahan’s cross was met by Alexander Tettey who couldn’t direct the header, and then with another bite of the cherry Bradley Johnson could only side-foot straight at Cech.
This time it was Norwich who would regret their profligacy, as Frank Lampard converted a superbly-struck half-volley from the edge of the box, after Torres had seen an overhead kick blocked by a defender.
It was Lampard’s 189th Chelsea goal, and his 129thin the Premier League, to take him ahead of Roy Bentley and level with Bobby Tambling for club league strikes.
It was turning into a good afternoon for the Stamford Bridge faithful, and it would get even better on the 30-minute mark when Mata robbed the ball in his own half following a Norwich corner, and broke fast into opposition territory.
With options right and left, he went left, and found Hazard with a perfectly weighted pass, allowing the Belgian the simple task of side-footing beyond Ruddy to double our advantage.
Norwich are yet to win this season, and Hughton had demanded a reaction after the Liverpool defeat last week. They provided one with the ingenuity of Hoolahan, the diminutive midfielder, at the heart of all they did good. It was his low cross, aimed for Holt, that forced Terry to almost divert into his own goal.
Back on the front foot, Oscar, until this point quiet, danced around two challenges inside the box before passing the ball low towards goal, bringing a lively save from Ruddy.
Shortly before the break there were signs once again that defensively, Chelsea were not as tight as we have been. Johnson’s deep cross found Holt with space, though Terry did just enough in closing him down to force the striker off-target with his header.
The second period began in the same fashion as the first ended, Holt glancing a header just wide under pressure from Terry as Norwich sought a way back into the game.
Had referee Anthony Taylor seen things a little differently they might have been well out of it by the 53rd minute, with Hazard tripped by Barnett inside the box when chasing a pass. There was a clear obstruction of the Chelsea man, who felt he should have had a penalty.
Ruddy then made two decent stops, one from Oscar, the next from Hazard, who was denied by the keeper’s legs after tidy Chelsea passing.
Ramires was brought on for Lampard to add a little more protection, but further up the pitch there was still fun to be had as Ivanovic crashed home a fourth to put us in complete control.
Oscar crossed from the left, eventually finding Mata, whose flick into the air fell perfectly for the Serbian to hammer home into the bottom corner.
With the game won it was time for Chelsea’s great entertainers to enjoy themselves, with the fantastic three of Mata, Hazard and Oscar running Norwich’s midfield ragged, while sub Oriol Romeu twice went narrowly wide as he sought a first league goal to add to his Capital One Cup penalty against Wolves last week.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic (Azpilicueta 78), David Luiz, Terry (c), Cole; Mikel (Romeu 82), Lampard (Ramires 66); Mata, Oscar, Hazard; Torres.
Unused subs Turnbull, Cahill, Bertrand, Moses.
Goals Torres 13, Lampard 20, Hazard 30, Ivanovic 75
Norwich City (4-5-1): Ruddy; R Martin, Barnett, Bassong (R Bennett 77), Garrido; E Bennett, Howson, Tettey, Hoolahan, Johnson (Pilkington 67); Holt (c) (Morison 76).
Unused subs Bunn, Snodgrass, Turner, Jackson.
Goals Holt 10
Referee Anthony Taylor