Costa back in the goals as Chelsea give boss Mourinho much-needed win
Published 21/11/2015 | 17:11
Jose Mourinho was back in the dugout and Diego Costa returned to the score sheet as Chelsea claimed a much-needed 1-0 win over Norwich.
Costa ended a six-match barren spell, prompting chants of "we are staying up" and "Jose Mourinho", as the Barclays Premier League champions secured a fourth win in their 13th Barclays Premier League game of the season to edge away from the foot of the table.
Three years to the day since Rafael Benitez was installed as interim successor to Champions League-winning boss Roberto di Matteo, Mourinho was desperate to end a run of three straight league losses in front of the watching Roman Abramovich.
Mourinho, banned from the stadium for the defeat at Stoke, was the subject of the first managerial vote of confidence in Abramovich's 12-year ownership on October 5.
The caveat of the board's support was that results had to improve and Chelsea have now won three times in eight games since. Here, Costa converted Cesc Fabregas' quick free-kick for just his fourth goal of the season and first since last month's defeat of Aston Villa.
Costa had earlier been conspicuous by his absence when Eden Hazard - some of his effervescence restored - twice crossed well, while he wasted two other chances, reminiscent of Fernando Torres.
He blasted over Pedro's cutback and then was denied by John Ruddy two minutes before the break.
Kurt Zouma also hit the bar after Chelsea had gone 1-0 up.
Norwich had opportunities, with John Terry blocking a Sebastien Bassong effort and Asmir Begovic saving well from Robbie Brady.
And, as with many Chelsea matches this season, there were penalty controversies.
Costa and Bassong grappled at one point and Willian went down under a Jonny Howson challenge before escaping a foul for bundling over Brady at the other end.
Mourinho selected 19-year-old Brazilian teenager Kenedy at left-back and restored Fabregas to his starting line-up.
The Blues' attacking build-up play was improved, but they were defensively suspect and Nathan Redmond was denied by Begovic after Terry's poor headed clearance.
Fabregas had fired a Hazard cutback over by then and Willian was denied by Ruddy before Costa's first gilt-edged chance.
Referee Craig Pawson rejected three penalty appeals - two from Chelsea, one from Norwich - in the first half, with replays justifying the decisions.
The match could have swung either way in the space of 60 seconds prior to half-time.
Terry blocked a Bassong shot as Chelsea scrambled clear a corner, with Kenedy crossing and Costa's effort deflecting wide off Ruddy's right leg on the counter.
Hazard was growing in confidence as Chelsea pressed in the second half, but few of his team-mates were on his wavelength and Costa appeared on a different frequency altogether.
Another Hazard cross evaded everyone, with Costa absent.
He was present when it mattered, though, bringing down Fabregas' free-kick before cutting inside Ryan Bennett and shooting inside the far post.
Zouma directed a Willian free-kick on to the bar soon afterwards and Nemanja Matic waltzed through only to be denied by Ruddy.
Norwich had chances, too, with Brady's shot saved by Begovic, but Chelsea held on to ease the pressure on Mourinho, who punched the air in relief when he heard the final whistle.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
Real relegation 6-pointer at Chelsea, or is that a bit harsh on Norwich? - Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) took a tongue-in-cheek view of the clash at Stamford Bridge
Asmir Begovic: 7 (out of 10)
Branislav Ivanovic: 6
Kurt Zouma: 7
John Terry: 6
Nemanja Matic: 6
Cesc Fabregas: 6
Diego Costa: 6
Eden Hazard: 7
Cesar Azpilicueta: 6
John Ruddy: 8
Andre Wisdom: 7
Martin Olsson: 6
Ryan Bennett: 7
Sebastien Bassong: 7
Jonny Howson: 6
Youssouf Mulumbu: 7
Gary O'Neil: 7
Robbie Brady: 7
Nathan Redmond: 7
Dieumerci Mbokani: 6
Wes Hoolahan: 6
Graham Dorrans: 6
Cameron Jerome: 6
John Ruddy: The England goalkeeper saved well from Willian, Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic to frustrate Chelsea. An honourable mention goes to Eden Hazard, who showed glimpses of a return to form.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
After spurning two chances he would have gobbled up last term, Costa struck when found by Cesc Fabregas. It was his first goal since mid-October and just his fourth of the season.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Jose Mourinho, who was back in the dugout after being banished from Stoke's Britannia Stadium on November 7, selected 19-year-old Brazilian Kenedy at left-back, with Cesar Azpilicueta dropping to the bench, and restored Branislav Ivanovic and Fabregas to the starting line-up. Alex Neil also made three changes, with Nathan Redmond, Youssouf Mulumbu and Dieumerci Mbokani coming in following the win over Swansea. Wes Hoolahan was among those to drop out, but came off the bench. Both sets of substitutes made little impact.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Another Chelsea game featured penalty appeals and whining from the technical areas directed towards the officials. Mourinho kept his counsel and replays showed referee Craig Pawson was right every time.
WHO'S UP NEXT
Maccabi Tel-Aviv v Chelsea, November 24 (Champions League)
Norwich v Arsenal, November 29 (Premier League)