Premier League - Sturdy Norwich deny Chelsea

Sat, 21 Jan 15:05:00 2012

Norwich City kept their first Premier League clean sheet of the season as they held Chelsea to a 0-0 draw at Carrow Road.

Norwich 0 Chelsea 0

A fine defensive performance, combined with another nightmare outing by Fernando Torres, helped Paul Lambert's side frustrate the visitors.

Central defenders Zak Whitbread and Daniel Ayala were immense, while goalkeeper John Ruddy made some fine saves.

It might have been three points rather than one for Norwich, but Mark Clattenburg missed what looked a clear handball by Raul Meireles at the edge of the Chelsea box.

Andre Villas-Boas chose not to hand new signing Gary Cahill a debut, and could not even find room on his bench for the former Bolton man.

In an attacking change from last weekend's win against Sunderland, Daniel Sturridge replaced Oriol Romeu to make his first appearance of the year.

The young England player has been arguably Chelsea's most influential attacker this season, but struggled to get involved in a pedestrian encounter.

Norwich boss Paul Lambert restored David Fox and Grant Holt to his side. Holt and strike partner Steve Morison have contributed 15 goals between them this season for an unexpectedly potent Norwich side that have scored more goals than anyone outside the top five.

The strikers linked up well on 11 minutes when Morison played Holt through, and the latter dodged David Luiz before hitting a left-foot shot just wide.

A looping Holt header tested Petr Cech, who also showed good reflexes to adjust and gather a deflected Bradley Johnson shot.

Lambert's problems have been at the other end, with Norwich failing to keep a single Premier League clean sheet this season.

However, they were well-organised, keeping nine men behind the ball whenever Chelsea threatened to break them down.

Neither side showed much appetite for confrontation - there was not a single foul in the first half. A triumph for fair play, perhaps, but it also made for sterile fare.

Chelsea's best moment came on 27 minutes courtesy of two much-maligned players.

David Luiz produced some sumptuous juggling skills to carry the ball out of defence, and when the counter-attack found Torres he stabbed an innovative shot towards the far corner with the outside of his right boot. It took a fine save from Ruddy to tip the ball behind for a corner.

Frank Lampard went off late in the first half with an apparent calf injury, though he was able to watch the rest of the game from the bench.

Chelsea ratcheted up the pressure in the second half, but struggled to pose much of a goal threat.

David Luiz struck a long shot high and wide, before Torres missed a gilt-edged chance.

A low Sturridge cross came to the Spaniard eight yards out. Although two defenders were closing him down, there can be no excuse for the striker's hesitant toe-poke wide.

He has now failed to score in 11 consecutive Premier League appearances, breaking his previous worst run from last spring.

Juan Mata brought a sharp save from Ruddy around the hour mark, before referee Clattenburg somehow missed a clear handball by Meireles.

Whether it should have been a penalty or a free-kick is unclear, but Clattenburg's decision to wave play on can only mean he did not see the infringement.

Ruddy showed safe hands to deny Ramires and Mata again, and ensure Chelsea were held at bay.

Torres was replaced late on by Romelu Lukaku - despite some encouraging touches, the Belgian substitute could not unlock Norwich.

Alex Chick - Twitter @alexchick81 / Eurosport

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