Norwich's final hurrah at Chelsea as light fades
The fighting spirit of Norwich City is never in doubt, but it is the crucial moments where they have fallen short in their fading quest for Premier League survival.
City bravely held Chelsea to a 0-0 stalemate at Stamford Bridge that did nothing for either club's aspirations in the final analysis.
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Neil Adams' Canaries needed a win to revive their hopes of sucking West Brom and Sunderland firmly back into the toxic mix. The Blues would have gone top with a victory despite Jose Mourinho's assertions they are not in the title race. In the end it was their direct rivals who profited most from an entertaining deadlock.
City justifiably felt aggrieved Martin Olsson was denied a first-half penalty when the Swedish international was felled by Ashley Cole and John Terry. Chelsea harboured their own grievances after the interval when Eden Hazard tumbled only for Terry to be flagged offside, but Norwich's game plan was forged on their ability to resist and frustrate.
They needed to wring the optimum from limited attacking potential. Chelsea struck the woodwork in either half and pressed incessantly after the interval in search of the breakthrough. In that context, City's penalty claim carried far greater importance; that and a late counter-attacking chance for Robert Snodgrass who veered wide enough for Gary Cahill to produce a perfectly timed block. Norwich's exhausted players were acclaimed by the 3,000 strong travelling support at the final whistle. Adams saluted the same constituency but this felt like a final hurrah. A farewell tour of a ground they will not grace on equal league terms for the foreseeable future.
Adams again stressed in his post-match dealing City’s squad is good enough to survive in such rarefied company and days like this one underline the argument. It is the lowest points that have too often been the dominant theme of a campaign that began with so much promise and optimism engendered by a club-record transfer outlay.
The sun shone just as brightly in west London as back on the opening day at Carrow Road when Ricky van Wolfswinkel's sublime header salvaged a point against a slick Everton side who have gone on to fulfil their potential.
City appear to have regressed to the point where they must now rely on the Premier League’s in-form side, Sunderland, failing to get any points from home games against West Brom and Swansea City in the coming days. That is an unlikely prospect.
There was no air of resignation in Norwich's offering at Chelsea, but the brutal reality is City must prepare for pastures new.