Chelsea put themselves in the driving seat to secure a Champions League spot with an unspectacular 1-0 victory over relegated Norwich at Stamford Bridge.
Striker Olivier Giroud guided a header past Tim Krul on the stroke of half-time after Christian Pulisic created space for the cross on the right.
The Chelsea pair almost combined again in the second half but Pulisic could not guide Giroud’s chipped ball past Krul.
Victory strengthens Chelsea’s hold on third place, where they sit four points above Leicester and Manchester United, who both play on Thursday.
Norwich, who were relegated following a 4-0 thrashing by West Ham on Saturday, failed to record a shot on target during the match.
Frustrated Chelsea get the job done
The first half was lacking in action as Norwich sat back and squeezed out any space available for Chelsea. The hosts just could not seem to get things clicking.
Following Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United, Chelsea would have wanted to start brightly and they showed signs with Ruben Loftus-Cheek heading wide and Marcos Alonso firing a dangerous cross in from the left within five minutes.
But as the half wore on, Chelsea struggled to create any clear-cut opportunities – Giroud reacted to a third scuffed shot with a roar of frustration in the box after 40 minutes.
Pulisic had provided the best chance of the half – controlling Antonio Rudiger’s cross, turning sharply and firing it towards the roof of the net, forcing a save from Krul – before he eventually set-up Giroud’s header with a swinging cross from the right.
The goal should have been a catalyst for Chelsea to release the shackles but the fluidity never really materialised, despite them still being able to create further chances.
Giroud and Pulisic were busy but not clinical, though it didn’t prove costly as Norwich never presented any real threat.
In the end, it was a comfortable victory for the Blues despite a lack of ruthlessness. Manager Frank Lampard will hope that clinical edge returns for a significant run of matches – they face Manchester United in an FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, visit champions Liverpool in the league next Wednesday and then finish the top-flight campaign at home to sixth-placed Wolves four days later.
Norwich fail to inspire
Norwich boss Daniel Farke said before the match he wanted his team to show a response to their relegation, have “pride” in wearing the shirt and “create good memories”.
But they did not show any spark until the second half and only 15% of the match was played in Chelsea’s third.
When they did put pressure on the ball and pushed high up the pitch, Chelsea showed nerves in a match crucial to their pursuit of Champions League qualification.
Jamal Lewis and Todd Cantwell won possession in Chelsea’s half and tempted Chelsea duo Mateo Kovacic and Kurt Zouma into rash challenges which brought them yellow cards.
Farke also introduced Adam Idah, Teemu Pukki and Emiliano Buendia as attacking substitutions in the second half but none had any impact on the game.
In the end, Norwich managed just two shots, neither on target, and one corner – and set a new club record of eight consecutive league defeats.