Mourinho shows his Special credentials with late tactical masterclass

Posted by Mark Worrall

Eden Hazard group celeb bench Chelsea NorwichGettyImagesEden Hazard is congratulated by the Chelsea bench after making it 2-1 at Norwich.

Two late goals from tactical substitutes Eden Hazard and Willian gave Chelsea their first away Premier League victory of the season - a 3-1 win at Carrow Road. Oscar had given the visitors the lead as early as the fourth minute with a beautifully crafted goal, but Norwich City, having fought back to equalise through an Anthony Pilkington header midway through the second half, had looked the more likely to go on to win the game until Chelsea snatched all three points in a dramatic finale.

With the exception of the unfortunate Fernando Torres, suspended and injured to boot, Jose Mourinho opted to start with the same line-up that served him well in the midweek Champions League trouncing of Steaua Bucharest. Despite limited game time so far this season, Demba Ba was preferred to Samuel Eto'o as Torres' replacement, and Mourinho's decision to go with the Senegal international paid dividends inside the first five minutes.

A precision pass from Frank Lampard, lofted high and long from deep in the Chelsea half, found Ba on the edge of the Norwich box. With a deft touch and flowing movement, the striker took the ball down, turned, and passed sweetly to the advancing Oscar, who struck it into the net with the outside of his right boot, putting enough spin on it to evade Canaries keeper John Ruddy.

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With the home side clearly rattled by the early goal it looked like Chelsea might be in for an easy afternoon, with Ba going close to doubling their lead in the 14th minute after Juan Mata picked him out unmarked in the Norwich box with a delightful pass. Ba drilled the ball towards the far corner of the goal, but Ruddy tipped the ball away for a corner that yielded nothing. As the half wore on Norwich regained their confidence though they rarely made any real impression going forward. Chelsea for their part kept pressing, but failed to further impose themselves in an increasingly scrappy contest.

The second half started almost exactly as the first -- with a Chelsea goal. Andre Schurrle broke down the left flank combining well with Ramires. The Brazilian teed up Ba with a great ball across the penalty area only to see his Senegalese teammate fail to connect cleanly with it, shooting narrowly wide.

As in the first half, Chelsea's failure to cement their advantage saw the Canaries grow in confidence, Anthony Pilkington catching the eye in particular. When the Norwich equaliser came, it was Pilkington who found the visitors net, beating David Luiz to a Ricky van Wolfswinkel centre and heading the ball past Petr Cech.

With the game opening up, both managers opted to make their first changes of the afternoon in the 73rd minute. Somewhat surprisingly, Mourinho replaced the excellent Ba with Eto'o while opposite number Chris Hughton sent on Gary Hooper for van Wolfswinkel. A minute later, Mourinho was forced into another substitution with Hazard coming on for Ashley Cole, the Chelsea left-back unable to continue and clearly in some discomfort as he left the pitch rubbing his ribcage.

The resultant change of tactics saw the visitors take the game to Norwich with Branislav Ivanovic, Eto'o and Hazard all going close before Canaries midfielder Robert Snodgrass almost gave the home side the lead from a counterattack, an opportunistic shot from outside the box going just wide to the right of the Chelsea goal.

With ten minutes left, Jose Mourinho made his final change with Willian replacing Mata, however, it was another substitute, Norwich City's Nathan Redmond, on for Snodgrass, who almost broke the deadlock with a right-footed shot that was smartly saved by Cech. With barely five minutes left Redmond, continually giving Chelsea problems at the back, won a corner and the home side threw men forward to attack the ball, which unfortunately for them was cleared upfield to Oscar.

Wasting no time, the Brazilian played it long to Hazard and the Belgium international struck a low shot towards the Norwich goal. Ruddy should have done better, but he allowed the ball to squirm under his body, Chelsea were in front and worse was to follow for the hapless Canaries. Giving the ball away cheaply from the resultant kick-off, the Norwich defence and Ruddy were mere spectators as £32 million Chelsea midfielder Willian, yet to really impress for his new side, finally announced his arrival with a spectacular curler, finding the top corner of the net from the edge of the box.

Though the 3-1 final score line flattered Chelsea somewhat, Mourinho can take great comfort from the victory. In recent weeks, with results not going the team's way, critics and naysayers had been questioning his overall strategy and tactics. On Sunday afternoon at Carrow Road, the Portuguese provided a reminder of his "Special" credentials, shuffling his talented pack at the right time to get the better of spirited opponents and ensuring that his players head into the international break in the right frame of mind.

For Mourinho, the only lingering concern perhaps remains the inability of his designated strikers to find the net. But with three of his midfield jewels doing that job, and no reason to suspect they and the others at his disposal cannot do so in the future, the Chelsea manager will rest easy. Although they wore white Sunday, the Blues played with a smile on their faces. Three points and a happy camp -- whisper it, the Special One and his boys are back in business.


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