Costa downs Nor­wich to ease Chelsea cri­sis

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Chelsea 1

Nor­wich 0

Diego Costa’s sec­ond half strike brought re­lief to Stam­ford Bridge as Chelsea halted a run of three straight Premier League de­feats with a 1-0 vic­tory over Nor­wich yes­ter­day. It will take more to turn the reign­ing cham­pi­ons’ sea­son around, but this win at least stopped the rot and eased the pres­sure on man­ager Jose Mour­inho. There were cer­tainly pos­i­tives for Mour­inho, who this week re­ceived the pub­lic back­ing of the club’s hi­er­ar­chy for the sec­ond time this sea­son, with Costa res­cu­ing an in­dif­fer­ent dis­play with his first goal in seven games and Eden Haz­ard again show­ing signs of a re­turn to form.

But it is clear Chelsea, who moved above Nor­wich into 15th po­si­tion, re­main a shadow of the side that dom­i­nated the ti­tle race last sea­son as they strug­gled to over­come the lowly Ca­naries. Mour­inho main­tains Chelsea’s per­for­mances have been de­serv­ing of greater re­ward in re­cent weeks, par­tic­u­larly in the de­feat at Stoke City last time out. That has strength­ened the man­ager’s be­lief his side are on the verge of draw­ing a line un­der their dis­as­trous start. But with the gap to the top four grow­ing ever wider, Mour­inho knew his side must quickly re­solve the prob­lems at both ends of the pitch that have con­trib­uted to their demise this sea­son.

And in the first half, the signs were the Blues are still some way short of find­ing the an­swers. Mour­inho could have no com­plaints with the way his side ap­proached the game, with Cesc Fabregas and Ne­manja Matic pro­vid­ing the mid­field plat­form that al­lowed the home side to push Nor­wich back­wards. Less sat­is­fac­tory was Chelsea’s ef­forts in­side the visi­tors’ penalty area, with Costa in par­tic­u­lar guilty of spurn­ing a suc­ces­sion of good chances that con­firmed the Spain striker is still op­er­at­ing way be­low the stan­dards he set last sea­son.

Dis­mal run

Com­ing into this game, the Brazil-born for­ward had scored just twice in 10 Premier League starts. And while he had the op­por­tu­nity to add to that tally be­fore the break, his fin­ish­ing lacked con­vic­tion, suggest­ing his con­fi­dence has been af­fected by Chelsea’s dis­mal run. Costa wasn’t the only cul­prit in the first half with Fabregas and Wil­lian also fail­ing to make the most of good chances. But more is ex­pected from Costa and the way he shot high over the bar af­ter be­ing picked out by Pe­dro’s cut-back was a sign of things to come. A more glar­ing miss came in the fi­nal mo­ments of the first half when Chelsea broke quickly with Kenedy even­tu­ally find­ing Costa in time and space on the right hand side of the Nor­wich box, only for the for­ward to shoot too close to keeper John Ruddy.

And prior to that, Costa failed to read Haz­ard’s in­ten­tions when the mid­fielder sent a low ball across the face of goal, wait­ing in­stead for a pull-back on the edge of the box. Mour­inho’s re­ac­tion on the touch­line spoke vol­umes and the man­ager again re­mon­strated with Costa fol­low­ing a car­bon-copy move early in the sec­ond half. Costa pro­duced the ideal re­sponse, how­ever, in the 64th minute when he of­fered a glimpse of his un­doubted qual­ity and con­jured the goal Mour­inho will hope trig­gers a resur­gence in his form.

Chelsea’s pres­sure had been build­ing af­ter the break and Nor­wich cracked when they lost con­cen­tra­tion as Fabregas took a quick free­kick on the half­way line. The mid­fielder’s chip al­lowed Costa to break free be­hind the back­track­ing de­fend­ers and this time the striker showed great com­po­sure to curl the ball be­yond Ruddy and in­side the near post. Mour­inho’s side may have de­served their lead on the bal­ance of play but Nor­wich could eas­ily have found them­selves ahead in the first half. Wil­lian was for­tu­nate ref­eree Craig Paw­son al­lowed the Brazil­ian’s clumsy chal­lenge on Rob­bie Brady to go un­pun­ished in­side the area and it took an ex­cel­lent block by John Terry to deny Se­bastien Bas­song’s close-range shot.— AFP

LON­DON: Chelsea’s Brazil­ian striker Kenedy (left) chal­lenges Nor­wich City’s English de­fender An­dre Wis­dom dur­ing the English Premier League foot­ball match be­tween Chelsea and Nor­wich City at Stam­ford Bridge yes­ter­day. — AFP


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