Chelsea are into the fourth round of the FA cup, but only after defeating Norwich on penalties in the third-round replay. It wasn’t a good performance from Chelsea, and in many ways, it aped the previous tie at Carrow road, albeit there were far more chances and incident in this one.
Conte opted for the same side that drew the first match in this tie against Norwich, except for Azpilicueta who started in the back three, whereas it was Rudiger who played the opening match. That meant nine changes from the side that faced Leicester at the weekend, and as in the first match, he opted to use a 3-4-3 formation. Norwich had a couple of changes from the side that held us at Carrow road, but kept faith with the same tactics that had denied us convincingly there.
For most the first half, it looked like going the way of the previous match. Norwich again splitting their strikers and pushing up their advanced midfielder, Maddison this time, to press our back three to stop them being able to play out easily. This again worked, with an increasing amount of long balls hopefully hit in Batshuayi’s direction as we struggled to play into midfield. In the centre, as in the first match, it was two versus two, and in the first half we had the same problems as previously against our opponents. There was a lack of continuity between midfield and attack, as Pedro and Willian struggled to find space, and did not drop off enough to help the transition from back to front. Batshuayi was again often isolated.
We did fashion a couple of chances though, which was more than we managed in the original tie. A corner was flicked on by Bakayoko at the near post, and Azpilicueta was inches away from making contact at the far post, as it went just wide. Danny Drinkwater, partnering Bakayoko in central midfield nearly opened the scoring as his brilliant right footed effort from twenty-five yards was superbly turned onto the crossbar by keeper Gunn.
At the other end Norwich were also creating more chances than they managed against us in the previous match. Oliveira, who didn’t feature in the first match, was a threat throughout. He rattled the bar after Batshuayi had inexplicably passed the ball straight to him. He went close soon after, as Maddison ran over a Klose pass into the front man, he turned Azpilicueta as Maddison’s run took
Luiz away, but his shot went wide at the near post.
Norwich showed that they were not just well organised defensively, but a threat going forward as well. As in the previous match though, it was Chelsea who controlled possession, but still struggling to link midfield and attack, we went in at the break with the score 0-0.
Chelsea came out brighter at the start of the second period. Willian dropping deeper to pick up the ball and causing problems as he ran at the Norwich backline. Our impetus appeared to be petering out until we managed to find the break through ten minutes in to the second half. A Kenedy throw on the left-hand side was played back to him by Willian, the Brazilian’s low cross evaded Norwich’s uncharacteristically static defenders, and Batshuayi turned it into the roof of the net.
Norwich were not lying down yet though, and hit the post after Azpilicueta got in Caballero’s way as he came to claim, and Maddison fired a shot off the far upright.
Chelsea had again lapsed as the struggles of the first half returned, and Conte briefly switched to 3-5-2 after Morata’s introduction with ten minutes remaining. Immediately he headed a Drinkwater cross just wide. This was not comfortable though, and Norwich still had belief. This was rewarded in the fourth minute of added time. Klose whipped in a cross from the left wing, and Luiz made no effort to track Lewis in the box, who headed in off the far post. Extra time now beckoned.
At the start of extra time the most controversial incident of the night took place in the shed end penalty area. Willian cut into the box, and as he attempt to evade Klose’s sliding tackle, he was clearly tripped. It looked to be a clear penalty. Referee Graham Scott thought otherwise, but surely VAR would overrule him? Apparently not. Farcical scenes, and a ridiculous decision that makes a mockery of the system. To make matters worse, Willian was booked for diving, joining Pedro in the book for the same offence he had committed earlier (of which there was no argument). The introduction of Hazard saw the system revert to 3-4-3, and the Belgian immediately improved the system with his trademark off the ball runs to pick the ball up deep, before he turns and runs at the defence at speed.
As the match drifted towards penalties, we were reduced to ten men after Pedro received a second yellow for a foul on Norwich sun Hoolihan. No arguments for this one either. There were however, arguments when Morata ran into the box and with Zimmerman holding him, or at least with an arm on him, the Spaniard went down. Yes, it was soft, and may not have been a penalty, but to book him for diving was harsh. Morata clearly agreed, but his vociferous appeals only earned him a second yellow. We had to see the last couple of minutes out with nine men.
Zimmerman, the Norwich centre back, was excellent as he was at Carrow road. The same could not be said for Luiz in the centre of our defence, who did nothing to persuade Conte to bring him back into the usual starting line-up.
The penalties were straight forward, which makes a change for Chelsea. Oliveira, who was also very good for the visitors, had their first effort well saved by Caballero, and we despatched all of ours.
We now face Newcastle at home in the fourth round. We travel to Brighton before that, without the suspended Pedro and Morata.
Chelsea (3-4-3): 1 (Batshuayi 55)
Caballero; Ampadu (Christensen 81), David Luiz, Azpilicueta (c);
Zappacosta, Bakayoko (Hazard 99), Drinkwater, Kenedy (Kante 87);
Willian, Batshuayi (Morata 81), Pedro.
Sent off Pedro 117, Morata 120
Booked Pedro 62, Willian 92, Morata 120
Norwich (3-4-3): 1 (Lewis 90+4)
Gunn; Ivo Pinto (c) (Tettey 116), Zimmermann, Hanley (Cantwell 86) (Stiepermann 120+1), Klose, Lewis, Reed (Hoolahan 82), Vrancic;
Maddison, Oliveira, Murphy.