Frank Lampard wanted noise from his Chelsea team. He wanted shouting, he wanted volume from a bunch of timid, tongue-tied whisperers. What did he get as his side just about kept their grip on a top four place with this edgy win? Well, the volume went up maybe from five to six. Just about enough – but we are not talking thrash metal levels here yet.
Chelsea are though making heavy weather of this fight for the Champions League places. The nerves are there for all to see. But, thanks to the old, cool head of Olivier Giroud, they came through this test. Just.
With Manchester City’s European ban being overturned on Monday, that contest for the Champions League places had got just that little bit tighter this week, so the pressure was on Lampard’s men – especially with awkward games against Liverpool and Wolves to come.
Now though, they have a four-point cushion over rivals Leicester and Manchester United, who both wobbled this week. It should be enough.
Lampard, clearly annoyed by the defeat at Sheffield United, made five changes against a Norwich team, already relegated, who have now lost eight games on the bounce in the Premier League, had won only once on their travels all season, and scored only seven goals. They never looked likely to better that tally.
But, with new signing Hakim Ziyech watching from the stands at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea started slowly against a Canaries side who at could least play with freedom, knowing their fate – relegation back to the Championship – was long decided.
Jorginho lifted the ball through for Giroud early on, but the Frenchman shot straight at Tim Krul. Then Christian Pulisic, played in by Marcos Alonso, hit the side netting, and when Cesar Azpilicueta cut the ball back, an unmarked Giroud wastefully blazed high and wide.
The chances were coming, as Antonio Rudiger’s cross was flicked on by Giroud, and Pulisic span to shoot, but Krul superbly tipped over.
Then Kurt Zouma headed just wide – but in first half injury time, Chelsea finally broke through, as Pulisiic crossed, and Giroud nodded home for his seventh goal of the season. The Scrabble fan celebrated by imitating writing on his hand.