Impressive Norwich City hold Chelsea to goalless draw and force FA Cup third-round replay

Norwich City 0 Chelsea 0: Antonio Conte mixed up his team selection but fresh legs failed to find a way through the Canaries' stubborn resistance 

Derren Howard
Carrow Road
Saturday 06 January 2018 20:55
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Pedro and Chelsea's other attacking talents were kept at bay
Pedro and Chelsea's other attacking talents were kept at bay

An excellent Norwich City earned a deserved replay against Premier League Champions and last year’s FA Cup finalists Chelsea. Norwich were much better than many expected while a lacklustre Chelsea simply didn’t show enough ambition or aggression to break through Daniel Farke’s well-organised team, who are hovering around mid-table in the Championship.

A replay was the last thing Chelsea manager Antonio Conte would have wanted but his team didn’t deserve any better.

Norwich, who are unbeaten in their last three games in the Championship, have been knocked out in the third round of the FA Cup for the last four seasons. The last time they advanced into round four was a 3-0 win against Peterborough in 2013 when Norwich had Harry Kane, on loan from Tottenham, as an unused substitute.

Conte didn’t risk the likes of Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas but left Alvaro Morata as an option from the bench. Michy Batshuayi started up front and defender David Luiz contested his first match for six weeks following a knee problem.

Norwich are at something of a cross roads. They sit 13th in the Championship and nine points adrift of the play-off places and their Premier League parachute payments end this season. Last campaign, the Canaries ran up a wage bill of £55m, the second-highest recorded in Championship history. Head coach Farke is rebuilding the team while preparing for departures of high earners. The visit of Chelsea reminded home supporters of what they are missing following relegation under Alex Neil two seasons ago.

The hosts started well and enjoyed decent spells of possession. Alex Pritchard and James Maddison, their two best attacking players, looked lively without seriously troubling the Chelsea back three of Luiz, Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger or goalkeeper Willy Caballero, in for Thibaut Courtois.

Norwich’s first attempt on target came from Josh Murphy. The 22-year-old winger advanced down the left, beating Rudiger, and his cheeky near-post effort was well gathered by the alert Caballero. Murphy also wasted a half-chance on 35 minutes as once again he made good progress on the left but lost his composure in the box and dragged his effort, neither a shot or cross, well wide. Norwich were expanding plenty of energy, playing at pace while Chelsea were composed, held their positions without offering too much going forward. They were waiting for Norwich to blow themselves out and then exploit the gaps – it never happened, Norwich were to good and didn’t allow it while Chelsea were too passive to make it happen.

With Premier and Champions League commitments looming, the last thing Chelsea wanted was an FA Cup replay. Conte’s team showed a touch more ambition after the break and Willian had their best effort on 59 minutes when he tested Angus Gunn with a fierce drive from 18 yards after Tom Trybull had lost possession.

Cahill was booked for clattering Pritchard but the former Spurs man was soon back on his feet. He wriggled free in the box and his effort looped off Luiz and dropped narrowly over the cross bar. Still Norwich came forward. Jamal Lewis’ freekick was tamely punched by Caballero but Murphy’s shot once again lacked accuracy – he should have done better.

Last year’s beaten finalists Chelsea have advanced from 20 of their last 21 FA Cup ties against sides out of the Premier League. Morata came on for Batshuayi with just under 20 minutes to go but not even the former Real Madrid man could find a way through well-drilled home defence.

The closest they came was in the 92nd minute when Davide Zappacosta walloped a volley wide of the post.

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