Chelsea and Norwich City's ambitions at opposite ends of the Premier League table hang by a thread after a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge.
On the back of a midweek semifinal defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, Chelsea was unable to shake off its malaise against its relegation-threatened opponent.
|VIEW FROM STAMFORD BRIDGE |
|By Greg Stobart |
LONDON — Jose Mourinho is not used to boos, but that was the noise that greeted the final whistle at the end of Chelsea’s last home game of the season.
On a beautiful sunny day in west London, it felt like the Blues players had their minds on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and the World Cup rather than the Premier League title race.
As has too often been the case this season, they failed to find an answer when tasked with breaking down Norwich’s stubborn defense - and Chelsea knows it will be mathematically out of the title race if Liverpool beats Crystal Palace tomorrow.
Norwich, for their part, was superb. It came for a point and got what it deserved, never really conceding a clear chance to Chelsea although Andre Schurrle and David Luiz both hit the woodwork.
It could have been better for the Canaries had they been awarded an early penalty when Ashley Cole and John Terry both took out Martin Olsson.
But stand-in manager Neil Adams will be happy to take its survival fight down to the last day of the season, knowing it has a chance to stay in the Premier League if it beats Arsenal next weekend.
Andre Schurrle and David Luiz struck the post and crossbar for the hosts either side of halftime and both teams were frustrated by rejected penalty appeals as understandable nerves worked against an engaging spectacle.
Jose Mourinho will see his team's title hopes ended if Liverpool wins at Crystal Palace on Monday, while Manchester City - the leader once more having beaten Everton 3-2 on Saturday - will restrict the club to third position if it also wins its game in hand against Aston Villa on Wednesday.
Norwich ended a run of five straight league defeats, but Sunderland's 1-0 triumph at Manchester Untied means Neil Adams' side must beat Arsenal on the final weekend and hope Sunderland - which has a vastly superior goal difference - loses its remaining home games to West Brom and Swansea City.
Chelsea attacker Schurrle tested John Ruddy's handling with a speculative third-minute strike, but both teams appeared weighed down by Saturday results that made their respective tasks tougher during a lackluster opening period.
Adams selected left back Martin Olsson in an unfamiliar advanced wide midfield role for Norwich, and he had a strong penalty claim rejected in the 11th minute.
Bradley Johnson slipped a pass through as Olsson burst into the Chelsea box, where Ashley Cole was at full stretch to get a faint toe to the ball before home captain John Terry clattered into the former Blackburn Rovers player.
Johnson hacked at fresh air when he might have aimed a diving header at Olsson's searching 20th-minute cross from the right, while Terry found space to thud a Schurrle corner into Ruddy's chest at the other end.
Nemanja Matic produced a wonderfully weighted ball to find Schurrle in the 32nd minute, and the Germany international shot across Ruddy to strike the base of the right-hand post.
Norwich almost had a 41st-minute lead when Johnson's drive clipped Terry and the ball looped agonizingly wide.
Mourinho looked to lift a listless Chelsea display with a double halftime substitution, Luiz and Eden Hazard replacing Frank Lampard and Mohamed Salah.
Luiz almost made an instant impact when he thudded a rising strike against the underside of the crossbar, while Alex Tettey won the benefit of the doubt from referee Neil Swarbrick in the 54th minute when Schurrle went over in the box under a high-risk tackle.
Hazard also started brightly and found himself at the center of another penalty appeal when he collided with Ryan Bennett - the Norwich defender's initial wild challenge having missed ball and man before an offside flag was raised to end Chelsea's attack.
Robert Snodgrass had Norwich’s best chance on a 71st-minute break but Gary Cahill touched his shot behind, while Hazard called Ruddy into action and Demba Ba headed wide as both sides faced up to a final week in which they will need favors from elsewhere.
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