Mourinho throws caution to the wind as Chelsea beat Norwich

Posted by Phil Lythell

Willian Chelsea celeb Norwich groupPA PhotosWillian scored his first Chelsea goal in style as he curled home.

A display of character, determination and a sprinkling of class saw Chelsea beat Norwich City 3-1 at Carrow Road on Sunday.

The result gave the Blues their first away win in the Premier League this season and eases any lingering doubts about their ability to turn their talent into points away from home after dominant performances at Goodison Park and White Hart Lane culminated in a solitary draw. A win in front of a vibrant East Anglia crowd and against a team that took the game to Chelsea in the second half will put them in good stead going into the international break.

Having run the show in the first half and gaining an early lead, it would have been galling to drop any points from this fixture despite Norwich's renewed efforts after halftime. Ultimately the storm was weathered and Jose Mourinho's changes proved decisive. The Portuguese is often accused of being a negative, pragmatic manager though his tweaks following the Canaries' equaliser highlighted his winning mentality and his unwillingness to merely settle for a point.

- Davitt: Plaudits are cold comfort for Norwich

Mourinho's impact was vital as two of his second-half substitutes -- Eden Hazard and Willian -- got on the score sheet to turn the game in Chelsea's favour in the last 10 minutes. Of course, it helps when those two players cost a combined total of 62 million pounds, so perhaps their introduction was not the most difficult call to make, though the removal of Juan Mata while seeking a goal was certainly eye-catching, and the decision to play out the game with just three at the back was very brave indeed.

The defensive switch could easily have backfired with Norwich already looking dangerous in wide positions and the narrowing of the back line through Ashley Cole's departure could have seen the Blues return to London empty handed. Norwich boss Chris Hughton brought on the tricky Nathan Redmond to try to exploit the shift in formation, and the young Englishman's pace instantly caused problems for David Luiz and Co. The flip side to this high-risk tactic was that it provided Chelsea with a greater weight of numbers when flooding forward and ensured that any counterattack would see the hosts overwhelmed if the move was constructed properly. Thankfully for Mourinho and the traveling hordes, the ball bounced the way of the Blues with a helping hand from Norwich's defence as Hazard and Willian wrapped up the points for the visitors, the latter in sensational fashion.

Individually, there were a couple of excellent performances, not least the one delivered by Oscar. By linking seamlessly with Mata throughout the game, the Brazilian made a mockery of this blog's observations earlier this week when it questioned whether he was able to play in tandem with the Spaniard effectively. Mata began the game in a central position but the duo managed to swap positions with graceful fluidity creating space for each other and their teammates in the process.

Oscar's strike that opened the scoring was exemplary in its technique, and the only surprise was that he didn't add to his tally in the second half when he found himself free in the penalty area and curiously opted for power over precision. His distribution was equally as incisive and his early ball was the key to Chelsea regaining the lead even if Alex Tettey and John Ruddy combined to let Hazard score the softest of goals.

The other outstanding performer for Chelsea came from a less obvious source. Demba Ba has become the forgotten man at Stamford Bridge, a victim of Fernando Torres' improving form and the arrival of Mourinho favourite Samuel Eto'o. But given his opportunity against Norwich he grasped it with both hands, running Michael Dawson and Sebastien Bassong ragged throughout the first half. Ba was selected due to his manager's hunch that a physical presence up front would be a key ingredient for victory and he was proved right with Ba's muscle unsettling the hosts' defence and beautifully setting up Oscar to break the deadlock.

The only thing missing from his contribution was a goal, though he forced Ruddy into a fingertip save on one occasion and saw a deft flick roll just past the post on another. With the striking department perceived as Chelsea's weak link, it was encouraging to see the Senegalese join Torres in rising to the occasion in recent weeks. Should Eto'o shrug off his rustiness, the Blues could have a healthy trio of target men to choose from.

The win does not come without question marks, especially the concern that Chelsea were unable to convert their total control over the match into an unbridgeable advantage. There were also times in the second half when the ball was given away too cheaply in the face of Norwich's high-pressure game, and those are scenarios that will prove costly against more celebrated opponents.

There is still plenty for Mourinho to ponder as the majority of his charges leave for international duty, though he will be pleased that they depart with Chelsea very much on an upward trend.


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