In any other circumstances this would be one of Norwich City's best results of the season. The Canaries had lost their last eight away matches, have collected fewer points than any other Premier League side on their travels, and therefore a point at Stamford Bridge would usually be extremely welcome. Unfortunately this was a must-win game.
Neil Adams' team selection was extremely cautious and designed to play on the counterattack. That made sense considering Chelsea's recent defeats against deep defences such as Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Sunderland – and with José Mourinho fielding an attacking midfield trio of André Schürrle, Willian and Mohamed Salah, all dependent upon counterattacking into space, Norwich were determined to nullify their strengths.
Norwich's most dangerous attacker was a converted left-back. Martin Olsson started on the left of midfield but rotated with Robert Snodgrass on the opposite flank and provided two of Norwich's best moments from the right. He ran in behind the Chelsea defence and was unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty when he was fouled by both Ashley Cole and John Terry simultaneously. Later he delivered an excellent cross which narrowly evaded Bradley Johnson.
Norwich also put a huge emphasis upon long throws, with the centre-back Ryan Bennett charged with hurling the ball into the box. Norwich consequently took an eternity to organise themselves in these situations because Bennett had such a long journey forward – and he was unsurprisingly booked for time-wasting in one of these instances.
In truth, Chelsea have plenty of height in their side, both in defence and the centre of midfield, and were rarely troubled until the last of these throws in stoppage time, when a Johnson header forced Mark Schwarzer to save.
Mourinho's half-time substitutions improved the pace of Chelsea's play. Eden Hazard slalomed past challenges, and David Luiz offered a greater passing range than Frank Lampard. Norwich had to withstand sustained spells of pressure.
The Canaries' major shortcoming this season has been their lack of attacking firepower. It sums up Adams' understandable lack of faith in his strikers that he substituted Johan Elmander when chasing the win, yet left both Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Gary Hooper on the bench. Nathan Redmond, a winger by trade, was introduced up front – and his pace caused Terry and Gary Cahill problems. He also drove forward and slipped a clever pass through the defence for Snodgrass, who denied himself a one-on-one with Schwarzer because of a poor first touch.
Ultimately it was too little, too late for Norwich. They could be relegated by the time they kick off against Arsenal next Sunday – if so, at least they went down fighting.