Didier Drogba was taken to hospital after being knocked unconscious in a collision with the Norwich City goalkeeper John Ruddy during Chelsea's 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge. The striker was carried off on a stretcher and into a waiting ambulance midway through the second half but scans later revealed no serious damage and the 33-year-old was given the all-clear.
The incident happened when Drogba and Ruddy jumped to challenge for a cross from the left in the 65th minute and the goalkeeper inadvertently struck the striker in the face. The impact was so forceful that the Ivorian appeared to have lost consciousness even before he landed head-first on the ground.
Players from both teams immediately called for medical assistance and Drogba was treated on the pitch for eight minutes before being carried off amid grave concern for his well-being. He was out cold for "quite some time", according to the Chelsea manager, André Villas-Boas, who praised the speedy reaction of the players and medical staff.
"Didier is showing signs of recovery," said a relieved Villas-Boas. "He lost consciousness completely on the pitch and I have to be very, very grateful to my players, the Norwich players and the medical staff for reacting so quickly to a potentially dangerous situation. Happily they arrived on time to bring Didier back to consciousness. We're awaiting the full exams on his concussions but hopefully nothing is wrong."
Villas-Boas did not blame Ruddy for the clash. "You expect physical contact from any game and things can happen," he said.
There was physical contact off the pitch, too, as the Norwich manager, Paul Lambert, shoved the Chelsea fitness coach, José Mário Rocha, as the latter celebrated in front of the visitors' bench after Chelsea won an 81st-minute penalty. A kerfuffle involving staff from both sides ensued. Lambert suggested it was Rocha – or "the guy with the stopwatch around his neck, I don't know who he is" – who sparked the melee. "He was disrespectful, going into my technical area. I don't understand Portuguese but if he understands Glaswegian, he'll know what I said to him."
Villas-Boas replied: "It would find it very strange if any of my staff were disrespectful of Norwich – they were just showing joy: if Paul can't handle that, I'm sorry. Unlucky."
The contentious penalty was awarded after Ruddy rushed off his line to intercept a through-ball before Ramires, but the Brazilian arrived first and went down under the goalkeeper's challenge. Ruddy was sent off and Frank Lampard scored the spot-kick to put Chelsea 2-1 up. That only added to Lambert's sense of grievance. "[Ramires] has lost control of the ball. He's going to ground before he got it. The referee has only one take on it but I thought it was harsh. It was the turning point of the game. I certainly can't fault my players' performance because we were excellent."
Norwich looked as likely as the home team to win the match after Grant Holt struck in the 63rd minute to cancel out José Bosingwa's fifth-minute opener. Juan Mata, the Spain midfielder signed from Valencia for £23.5m in midweek, added much-needed ingenuity to Chelsea's play after coming on as 67th-minute substitute and crowned a promising performance with a neatly taken goal in the 11th minute of stoppage time. Chelsea also announced the signing of another attacking midfielder, the Mexico Under-20 international Ulises Dávila from Chivas.
Villas-Boas insisted this was still their best display of the season. "We looked better overall on a 90-minute performance," he said. "We had two good second halves against Stoke and West Bromwich Albion but here we had a good solid 90-minute performance. Not excellent, of course, but it can give you some indications for the future."