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Giroud uses head to keep Chelsea on course for top four

Chelsea 1 Norwich 0

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Head man: Olivier Giroud nets for Chelsea

Head man: Olivier Giroud nets for Chelsea

Getty Images

Head man: Olivier Giroud nets for Chelsea

Olivier Giroud proved decisive once more as Chelsea continue to stagger towards next season's Champions League.

Failure to earn a far more decisive advantage, through the Blues' wastefulness in front of goal and the inspired form of Norwich's Tim Krul, will have done little to appease a prickly Frank Lampard.

The hosts found a spirited Norwich side, despite expected gloom following the confirmation of relegation. Their movement impressed early, even if the patterns were somewhat uncoordinated such as Todd Cantwell looking to stretch the game, furiously dashing into the space vacated by Marcos Alonso's eagerness to join the fun going the other way.

Chelsea soon discovered danger quickly spreads throughout Daniel Farke's side when the ball enters the final third. The electric Christian Pulisic elegantly adjusted his body before firing powerfully at goal, forcing Krul to spectacularly tip the ball onto the bar.

Then Kurt Zouma leapt high above everybody at a corner, connecting with a thumping header that missed the corner by inches.

But the restart has provided a telling reminder of the shortcut Giroud still provides, which is especially useful to Lampard during the teething issues while assembling his desired personnel. The Frenchman's presence in the box saw Pulisic whip in a delightful ball for his team-mate to glance home on the stroke of half-time.

For all of Lampard's progress though, beyond the exciting Pulisic, veterans Giroud and Willian remain pivotal. The latter, more subdued here, burst into life after the restart, with his vicious shot from inside the box deflected wide.

Jorginho's erratic positioning and, at times, wayward passing will have done little to sway Lampard's evident reservations, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek spurned another opportunity to translate his ability to the pitch since his return from injury.

Control could become a theme to Lampard's evolution as a manager, as for all their dominance the second goal proved elusive. Giroud's scooped through ball beautifully found Pulisic, but the American's flick was smothered well by Krul. And the Dutchman was in sensational form once more, denying Alonso.

The victory and a four-point gap to fifth will provide relief ahead of the significant work to come - though this performance did little to dispel this side's vulnerability before Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United.

CHELSEA: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Zouma, Alonso (James, 80mins), Loftus-Cheek (Barkley, 67mins), Jorginho, Kovacic, Willian, Giroud (Abraham, 86mins), Pulisic (Hudson-Odoi, 81mins).

Subs not used: Christensen, Pedro, Caballero, Mount, Tomori.

NORWICH: Krul, Aarons, Godfrey, Klose, Lewis, Tettey (Stiepermann, 79mins), Cantwell (Buendia, 71mins), McLean, Rupp (Martin, 89mins), Hernandez (Pukki, 79mins), Drmic (Idah, 79mins). Subs not used: Vranci, Trybull, McGovern, Thomas.

Man of the match: Giroud

Match rating: 5/10

Referee: Jonathan Moss

 

Belfast Telegraph