Chelsea remain in the driving seat for European qualification after an unconvincing win over already-relegated Norwich.
It was a frustrating affair for long periods, as a familiar lack of composure and steadfast Norwich defence prevented a more comfortable margin.
The first half was underwritten by Chelsea dominance, holding the ball in the middle third for the duration. Christian Pulisic, effervescent as ever, was the major creative force. The American linked up effectively with Olivier Giroud, with the latter’s lack of confidence precluding an early breakthrough.
Recalled Marcos Alonso was also lively in the opening period, providing consistent crosses into the box for the Frenchman. It was his full-back counterpart, Cesar Azpilicueta, who was the closest in the opening period; firing narrowly over the bar from outside the box.
It was gearing up to be a frustrating evening for Chelsea, as missed chances and sloppiness were hampering build-up and opportunities. This was characterised by Jorginho, so often the pacemaker, being dispossessed and misplacing a number of passes. As half-time approached, it was becoming clear that changes were looking necessary for Frank Lampard.
The breakthrough eventually came in the dying embers of the first period. Olivier Giroud headed home the winner from a well-judged cross from the left-hand side by Christian Pulisic.
There was a tangible sigh of relief amongst Chelsea fans, as it appeared as though the floodgates of the dispirited relegation fodder may just open. This was not to be as Norwich improved in the second period – making more regular forays into the Chelsea half.
Chelsea again appeared a disjointed outfit, mended only slightly by the introduction of Ross Barkley. The England international injected a measure of pace, helping link-up the midfield with Pulisic and Giroud more effectively.
An intelligent lobbed through-ball from Pulisic was the closest Chelsea came to a second goal, hit high into the Matthew Harding by the Frenchman.
The final whistle occurred without incident or fret, boosting Chelsea four points clear of both Leicester City and Manchester United. It is clear, though, that a better performance must follow against the Red Devils at Wembley on Sunday.