Guus Hiddink: Chelsea's sloppiness led to 'battle' with Norwich
Chelsea interim manager Guus Hiddink believes his team were forced into a "battle" by Norwich City because of their first-half sloppiness, but says he is pleased to extend the Blues' unbeaten Premier League run to 11 matches.
Kenedy gave Chelsea the lead just 39 seconds into Tuesday's game at Carrow Road and the visitors dominated the first half, eventually doubling their lead on the stroke of half-time when Diego Costa latched onto Bertrand Traore's pass to score his 10th goal in his last 14 club appearances in all competitions -- though replays appeared to show the Spain international was a yard offside.
Norwich City rallied after the break and Nathan Redmond's fierce 68th-minute strike ensured a tense finale, but Chelsea held on to secure a win that moves them into the top half of the Premier League table for the first time since August.
After the match Hiddink insisted the Blues should have done more to capitalise on their first-half superiority and break Norwich's resolve for a stirring fightback after the interval.
"We didn't want to get into a battle but they forced us into one very well," Hiddink told Sky Sports.
"We were sloppy in the first half. We started very well with a beautiful goal from Kenedy and we could have finished it off early. We were a little bit complacent in the last phase to finish it off. Then we got the 2-0 but in the end they made our lives very difficult."
Asked whether he thought Costa's goal was offside, Hiddink replied: "Normally I give fair comment but I haven't seen it so far."
Chelsea's third Premier League win in a row leaves them eighth in the table, only five points behind fifth-placed Manchester United having played a game more and with Europa League qualification looking an increasingly realistic target.
"It's important," Hiddink said of his team's momentum. "Everyone knows how we started in December -- we were down almost in the relegation zone. We had an immediate target to get as soon as possible out of that zone and we did that with draws, and now we are winning games in a row. That's encouraging."
Chelsea climbed to eighth, five points behind fifth-placed Manchester United and eight adrift of Manchester City in fourth.
"Now with the ambition of Chelsea we must set a new target and see what we can do in the direction of Europe," Hiddink added. "We have now won a few games in a row. We have to keep on winning. If everyone is on board and there are no big injuries, we'd like to go as high as possible towards the European spots."
Kenedy was withdrawn with a groin injury after his role in Chelsea's win, while Eden Hazard appeared to be feeling the effects of 90 minutes.
"It's good to have him [Hazard] in full intense games. He will grow. He had some discomfort. We'll see. I don't think it's a big problem," Hiddink said.
Gary Cahill continued his partnership with Branislav Ivanovic at the heart of Chelsea's defence in the absence of injured captain John Terry, and after the match the England international admitted he had not enjoyed facing waves of Norwich City pressure in the second half.
"It was horrible by the end," Cahill said. "The last 15, 20 minutes were very tough but in the first half we were in control at 2-0 up. The second half was a totally different game.
"We had to dig in and defend and it seemed like we couldn't get up the pitch. Credit to them, they made changes, brought some forwards on and put the pressure on. It was tough but it feels good to dig in and grind out the result."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.