Chelsea bounced back from their mauling at the hands of Sheffield United to defeat Norwich 1-0 albeit in unconvincing fashion.
The Blues were in danger of slipping outside the top four for the first time since October after their horror show against the Blades. However, Leicester City and Manchester United both failed to win and Chelsea remain third with their fate still in their hands.
With almost no margin for error, Chelsea hosted an already relegated Norwich in the first of their final three fixtures.
They simply had to win to remain in the driving seat of the race for Champions League qualification.
Unsurprisingly, the Chelsea boss made several changes to the team that started at Bramall Lane. Abraham, Mount, Christensen, James and Barkley failed to start this time out. In came Giroud, Loftus-Cheek, Rudiger, Alonso and Kovacic.
Chelsea dominated possession in the early stages without necessarily prompting Tim Krul into action. The game’s first real chance fell to Olivier Giroud after Jorginho’s through ball was inadvertently deflected into the Frenchman’s path.
His poor connection with the ball, however, resulted in an easy catch for Krul.
Moments later, Pulisic could only hit the side-netting from Alonso’s inviting cutback into the box.
Good work from Azpilicueta down the right side provided Giroud with yet another opportunity to break the deadlock. This time, his right-footed effort flew harmlessly over. From Rudiger’s cross, Pulisic controlled nicely before a snapshot which Krul could only manage to tip onto the bar.
As the half progressed, Chelsea upped the ante in search of the opener. With halftime approaching, they were still in search of it but not for long. In the third minute of stoppage time, Giroud was on hand to head home Pulisic’s delicious cross for his third goal in four games.
Chelsea would have been expected to put the game to bed in the second half but wasteful finishing meant that they had to settle for a narrow win. Pulisic and Giroud both failed to convert decent chances that fell to them. The Canaries’ failure to put the Blues under any serious pressure certainly helped their cause.
While the performance was far from satisfying, the result is definitely welcome as Chelsea go four points clear in third ahead of Leicester and Manchester United’s games against Sheffield United and Crystal Palace respectively.