Diego Costa signalled the end of a three-game losing streak for Chelsea in the Premier League as the champions picked up a 1-0 victory over Norwich City on Saturday.
Since beating Aston Villa 2-0 on October 17, Chelsea had been defeated by West Ham, Liverpool and Stoke City to leave them 16th in the top flight.
However, Costa halted his own barren run of 603 minutes without a goal in all competitions to lift Chelsea spirits at Stamford Bridge.
Both teams had chances to go in front during an open first half, with each having an appeal for a penalty turned down by referee Craig Pawson.
It looked destined to be another frustrating day at the office for Chelsea until Costa capitalised on some quick thinking from Cesc Fabregas to send his side in front after 64 minutes.
The result sees Chelsea climb above Norwich into 15th and manager Jose Mourinho will hope it marks the beginning of an upturn in form.
Mourinho handed Kenedy a first Premier League start as both managers made three changes and it was Chelsea who had the better of the early chances – Fabregas scooping over from close range following an Eden Hazard cutback before John Terry diverted just wide from a corner.
Nathan Redmond produced the first shot on target when he drew a save from Asmir Begovic with a powerful drive from a tight angle, while Willian tested John Ruddy at the other end following a threatening run from Hazard.
Redmond was deployed in an unfamiliar central attacking role and was integral to a move that ended with Dieumerci Mbokani lifting a shot over the crossbar from the edge of the box after 20 minutes.
Costa failed to keep his effort down after a slick passing move from the hosts, before Willian went down under the challenge of Jonny Howson in the box.
Replays confirmed the Norwich midfielder’s innocence – pulling off a superb challenge to dispossess the Brazilian – and Willian was lucky to avoid giving away a spot-kick at the other end when he brought down Robbie Brady moments later.
Chelsea found themselves under pressure in the closing stages of the first half, but Ruddy had to be alert to deflect wide a Costa strike following a swift counter-attack.
Kurt Zouma should have done better when he volleyed over from a corner early in the second period, before Fabregas forced Ruddy into a diving save with a low drive.
But Chelsea’s persistence paid off when Fabregas’ quickly taken free-kick over the top of the Norwich defence found Costa, who kept his cool to curl a shot around Ruddy.
Zouma could have double the advantage when he headed against the crossbar from a free-kick soon after, while a fierce Brady strike – touched wide by Begovic – formed part of a limited second-half attacking threat for Norwich.
Ruddy kept out Nemanja Matic as Chelsea claimed the points, with fans chanting Mourinho’s name in a show of support for their under-pressure manager, whose next Premier League test comes at Tottenham in eight days.
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