Juan Mata’s fine first-half strike was enough to see off Norwich City at Carrow Road on Wednesday and take Chelsea to within four points of second-place Manchester City in the Premier League standings.
The 1-0 victory was Chelsea’s third successive league success and sees the Blues looking upward rather than over their shoulders at the challengers for a Champions League place. While their latest win contained little of the fireworks of their 8-0 triumph over Aston Villa on Sunday, manager Rafael Benitez will doubtless be delighted at the professional manner by which they secured the three points.
Chelsea’s back line looked largely untroubled against a Norwich side whose recent impressive run has now been ended by successive defeats.
At the other end, the Blues were once again thankful to the brilliance of Mata, who continues to enjoy an exceptional campaign. The diminutive Spaniard might have given his team the lead earlier than he did, but he could only poke into the side netting following an incisive pass from David Luiz.
In the 38th minute Mata made no mistake with a stunning effort to steal the show. Oscar’s short pass found him 20 yards out and, despite being surrounded by Norwich players, Mata was able to strike a fierce left-footed drive past Mark Bunn.
Chelsea might have made the score line more comfortable as John Mikel Obi continued to await his first goal with a powerful effort over the bar while Victor Moses missed a presentable chance wide of the post.
On one of the rare occasions that Norwich threatened, Grant Holt looked poised to score but dragged a shot wide when clear on goal and was likely relived to see the flag go up for offside.
Their best and last chance came and went in injury time. From Robert Snodgrass’s corner, Sebastien Bassong rose highest at the back post and headed the ball down, but bouncing off the turf it went over the cross bar.