Chelsea failed to assert their authority as favourites as they could only manage a goalless draw with Championship side Norwich City in the FA Cup third round. This means the two sides will face off at Stamford Bridge in the replay in a week and a half’s time where the winner will find themselves in the pot for the fourth round.
One of the main criticisms of Chelsea’s first-half performance was that their second choice players failed to gel together. David Luiz made a return to the line-up as Antonio Conte made nine changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Arsenal.
Only Gary Cahill and Tiemoue Bakayoko kept their places in the starting XI. Both of those players were partly at fault for the Blues’ lacklustre first-half showing as they contributed to a very low pass completion rate at half-time. When the visitors could muster up a very rare attack, they were snuffed out very quickly by the Canaries, who got into the Chelsea 18-yard box on a few occasions.
It took just over half an hour for the hosts to break away on the counter-attack and the chance fell to Josh Murphy, who flew down the Premier League champions’ right side before dragging his shot well wide of Willy Caballero’s far post. With just a few minutes of the first period left, Alex Pritchard fired his shot from the edge of the box over the crossbar.
More of the same
Many would have expected Chelsea to come out of the visiting dressing room after the break with renewed passion and desire but they didn’t get that as the second-half was far from spectacular. However, their performance did improve slightly and they began to create chances, most of them coming from the direct attacking from Willian, the visitors’ stand-out player.
The Brazilian winger tested the resolve of Angus Gunn and the Norwich shot-stopper was equal to the test with two decent saves from Willian strikes. He could have had an assist before these efforts as he laid the ball back to Danny Drinkwater 15 yards out but the ex-Leicester man flashed his shot wide.
As the away side continued to push their lower league opposition all the way, they almost scored the winner. Davide Zappacosta cushioned the ball on his chest before powering a volley inches wide of the back post after Willian’s corner was headed away.
Conte, who has been involved in a war of words with Jose Mourinho this week, will be angry knowing that his men have to prepare for another fixture along with their involvement in the Champions League and the Carabao Cup.