This was a result which effectively put paid to both these sides' lingering hopes this term. The Chelsea squad returned to the turf for their "parade of appreciation" with enthusiasm in short supply, an uninspiring goalless stalemate having surely confirmed José Mourinho's oft-stated conviction that the title is beyond this team. They are a club already turning attention to a summer of significant tweaks to their personnel. For Norwich, despite a draw which would normally provoke some satisfaction and, indeed, earned a rapturous ovation from the travelling support, the immediate future is grim.
The first reward of Neil Adams' interim stewardship has most likely come too late to save City. The visitors departed still two points below the cut-off and their relegation can effectively be confirmed on Wednesday night if Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion, the two teams immediately above them, play out a draw on Wearside. This may have been admirable and they can cling to the hope that Albion and Swansea prevail this week at the Stadium of Light but, as Michael Turner admitted in the aftermath, "We probably needed all three points. if I'm honest." A three-year stint among the elite appears to be drawing to a close.
The visitors had competed well for long periods, almost uncharacteristically at times given the abject results which had dragged them into the mire, albeit against lacklustre hosts whose energy appeared to have fizzled out in the wake of midweek elimination in the semi-finals of the Champions League and with others boasting the advantage in the title race. André Schürrle and David Luiz each struck the woodwork, the latter having been introduced at the interval along with Eden Hazard in a desperate attempt to enliven proceedings. But there was too much stodginess to Chelsea's play, too little zest against opponents who, belatedly, had found some resolve on the road with this their first point in nine games away from Carrow Road. The hosts mustered 23 shots but only four were on target.
Mourinho fidgeted frustratedly in his technical area, his mood darkened when Ryan Bennett swung his leg to challenge Hazard in the area with the Belgian leaping to avoid the limb and tumbling to the turf as a result. The referee, Neil Swarbrick, ignored the penalty appeals while Mourinho scuttled off to the manager's room to watch a rerun on television before returning pitchside to make his view clear to the fourth official. "I went back to the dugout laughing, laughing because I can't cry," the Portuguese said. Asked to elaborate he declined to speak more. "I'm sorry. My assistant is in jail [Rui Faria started a six-match stadium ban here] and I don't want to talk."
There might have been another had Turner been penalised for a barge on Demba Ba though, in truth, the visitors had as much cause to feel aggrieved with a non-award of their own, 11 minutes in, when Bradley Johnson's pass reached Martin Olsson. If Ashley Cole had made faint contact with the ball as he slid in, John Terry at his back certainly did not with the referee's view perhaps obscured by Cole's initial challenge. "I've had a look and it's pretty clear," Adams said. "Martin gets a touch to take it away from Ashley Cole, and John Terry's momentum just takes him out. Probably [a red card] but definitely a penalty." Swarbrick opted against either, much to the visitors' disgust.
Olsson's delivery was dangerous at times in that opening period, the Swede flinging over crosses which fizzed through the six-yard box, but one of this team's problems has been converting such opportunities. They have scored 28 goals this season and their lone forward here, Johan Elmander, has only one in the league. The veteran worked hard before fatigue took over, with Nathan Redmond's pace introduced in the hope Chelsea chased the game themselves and left space to exploit on the counter. That might have been a masterstroke when the England Under-21 international slipped Robert Snodgrass through on goal 19 minutes from time, only for a heavy touch and Gary Cahill's excellent challenge to suffocate the shot into the side-netting.
With that probably went Norwich's best chance of mounting their great escape, though they appeared the more satisfied afterwards, even if they remained cautious in the dying moments when they might have pursued a winner. "But if we'd lost, we were down," Adams said. "With Chelsea needing to win as well, we thought there may be opportunities to get at them with our pace. Those last five minutes, do we gamble? Do we go for it? That was our dilemma. As it is, we need results. We need a bit of luck. If it goes our way, we have to make sure that Sunday's game against Arsenal is a fantastic occasion."
Chelsea go to relegated Cardiff for what is likely to be a low-key and subdued occasion. The emotion displayed by Cole, Frank Lampard and Terry after this game, whether some or all of that trio sign on for another year, was a reminder that this squad is still evolving. This year they came close. Next season they must secure tangible rewards.
Man of the match John Ruddy (Norwich City)