Chelsea hit woodwork twice, once in each half, but ultimately could not break down the Norwich defence as the visitors kept their hopes of avoiding relegation alive.

There remains a mathematical title chance for Jose Mourinho’s side but that would be ended by a Liverpool win tomorrow. However our superior goal difference over Arsenal means third place and qualification for next season’s Champions League group stage is all but guaranteed.

On a frustrating Sunday afternoon at Stamford Bridge, clear-cut chances proved difficult to create against the Canaries. There were penalty appeals from both sides, with one very strong one for a challenge on Eden Hazard in the Norwich area, but nothing was awarded.

Team News
Frank Lampard, Nemanja Matic, Mohamed Salah, Andre Schurrle and Demba Ba, who all started the win at Anfield a week ago, began this game too, with Willian the only attacking player in the starting 11 for both the game against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday and this one today.

Ashley Cole continued at left-back with Branislav Ivanovic on the right and the regular paring of John Terry and Gary Cahill playing in front of Mark Schwarzer.

Norwich made three changes from their big defeat at Old Trafford last time out, with Martin Olsson played in a more forward position down the left and Ryan Bennett coming in to a reshuffled defence.

Alex Tettey came into play as their anchor midfield and there was a change to the lone centre-forward role, with goal-shy Ricky van Wolfswinkel dropped and Johan Elmander selected.

First half
After very contrasting results in the previous two games, what would Chelsea confidence be like on a warm and sunny late spring day?

Schurrle, with two minutes on the clock, clipped a firm shot at Ruddy but it was too straight to trouble the Norwich keeper.

Matic then threaded a pass towards Ba with a marginal offside call going in favour of the Chelsea striker, but the ball escaped his long reach. Ba was soon the centre of attention again.

With five minutes played, while Cole was stretching the Canaries with an darting advance on the left of the area, our centre-forward was checked off the ball by Turner. It was quite a coming together and it left the Senegalese on the turf writhing in pain. With treatment, all was well again.

Norwich then took control of possession for a short spell and it resulted in Cole needing to slide in to prevent Olsson unleashing a shot well inside the penalty area. Terry challenged at the same time too as Olsson hit the turf but to Chelsea’s relief, referee Neil Swarkbrick judged Cole had got a touch on the ball first and waved away penalty claims.

The Chelsea left-back caused Norwich big concerns soon after but couldn’t quite find Ba’s near-post run, and then Ba’s ball into the danger zone after a Norwich mistake lacked direction as Chelsea took back the initiative.

On 19 minutes these Canaries showed they had some teeth as Olsson’s cross whistled dangerously across of the face of our goal, with yellow shirts worryingly close to making contact.

Midway through the half Schurrle won a corner which he took, and Terry tussled with and rose above his marker Turner. So often the skipper heads in from such positions, but this time he only found the arms of Ruddy, to his clear annoyance.

The game was becoming another of those struggles against a massed opposition defence, but around the half-hour mark, the Blues began to move the ball a lot quicker.

With the best play of the game so far, Cole then Matic pressure the ball off Norwich near halfway and the Serbian unleashed Schurrle with a great first-time pass. The German cut inside and missed the target by just centimetres, his strike bouncing back off the foot of the far post.

Chelsea v Norwich

Schurrle then had a firm 34th-minute shot from the other side of the pitch, this time denied by a save.

Willian, scorer of a memorable first Chelsea goal in the meeting between these sides at Carrow Road seven months ago, badly sliced an attempt three minutes before the interval. It had come from an attack funnelled into the crowded middle of the Norwich defence, as were the Blues remaining forward forays before the break.

Norwich had defended well enough and Chelsea went into the dressing room seeking a spark for the second half.

Second half
David Luiz and Eden Hazard came out for the second half with Lampard and Salah the players replaced.

Three minutes after the restart, the big-haired Brazilian came within a whisker of providing the elusive moment of inspiration. Ivanovic laid the ball back to the edge of the area and David Luiz’s sweet strike had Ruddy easily beaten but came back off the bar, with many in the Matthew Harding Stand behind aborting their premature celebrations.

In a similar place on the pitch to Norwich’s penalty appeal early in the game, there was a similar response from the ref when Tettey made contact with the leg of Schurrle as the German accepted Ivanovic’s pass half-turned towards goal.

That one could be debated but there seemed no doubt just two minutes later when Hazard nipped the ball past Bennett who took a wild swing with his leg before clattering into the Belgian. But again no penalty given. The game restarted with a free-kick, suggesting an offside decision may have gone against the Blues first.

Chelsea v Norwich

An incredulous Ivanovic was booked for a protest, as was Bennett soon after for time wasting over a throw.

For a team that really needed a win for the sake of realistic Premier League survival, the Canaries looked remarkably like one playing for a draw.

Chelsea were totally dominating second-half possession but on 70 minutes Norwich fashioned a breakaway when David Luiz lost out when taking on their defence. Robert Snodgrass was suddenly bearing down on goal but the lung-busting pursuit from Cahill was rewarded when he slid and blocked the shot. Marvellous defending.

Chelsea v Norwich

At the other end, Hazard was plugging away in possession but without finding the killer final ball. He had been joined in attack by Fernando Torres with Matic the player removed.

The two combined on 78 minutes but Ruddy pulled off a sharp save to keep out the Belgian’s shot, the best effort since David Luiz’s bar-rattler.

The game drifted on into the final five minutes with tension building. Ba headed a Willian free-kick over.

Norwich briefly threatened to land a sucker punch but Terry was too good for them and Schwarzer was up to the task when a flicked-on throw was headed on target.

Ivanovic blasted a stoppage-time shot over and there were scrambles in the Norwich box in the dying seconds, but the curtain came down on the season at Stamford Bridge on a low note.

However thousands remained for the traditional lap of appreciation at the end when the players and coaches thanked the crowd for their support throughout the year.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Schwarzer; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Cole; Lampard, Matic (Torres 72); Salah, Willian, Schurrle; Ba.
Unused subs Hilario, Kalas, D Luiz, Van Ginkel, Hazard, Eto’o.
Booked Ivanovic 57

Norwich (4-1-4-1): Ruddy; Martin (c), R Bennett, Turner, Whittaker; Tettey; Snodgrass, Johnson, Howson, Olsson; Elmander (Redmond 68).
Unused subs Bunn, Bassong, Fer, Hooper, E Bennett, Van Wolfswinkel.
Booked Bennett 59, Turner 86, Olsson 89.

Referee Neil Swarbrick
Crowd 41,602

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