Norwich City kept their first clean sheet of this Barclays Premier League season in a drab goalless draw with Chelsea at Carrow Road.
The main talking points were another abysmal performance by £50million striker Fernando Torres and an impressive display by Canaries goalkeeper John Ruddy.
The Spain striker was back to his frustrating worst and was removed for new boy Romelu Lukakau to cap off a miserable afternoon.
Despite an encouraging start by Chelsea, it was the home side that had the first sight of goal.
In the seventh minutes a nice exchange between Steve Morison and Anthony Pilkington saw the latter’s low shot saved by the legs of Cech.
Morison was provider once more just four minutes later when the Wales striker played in Grant Holt through the middle, but the Norwich captain could only shoot narrowly wide after cutting inside David Luiz.
The early promise of a lively game faded quickly as the home side began to put organisation over attacking vigour, which meant Chelsea saw much of the ball but not much of the opposition area.
This malaise was relieved momentarily in the 26th minute on one of the few occasions Torres was able to fully control the ball. The former Liverpool man had been struggling to get into the game up until then and thought he had his first goals since the end of September.
After picking up the ball just on the edge of the Norwich box, Torres drifted towards goal and let off a cute effort with the outside of his right boot.
It looked to be bending in the far corner – Torres was beginning to wheel away in celebration – but Ruddy got a fingertip on it to see it round the post.
It was a rare moment of quality in a game where both teams seemed contented with keeping possession, but an impressive two banks of four by Paul Lambert’s home side meant Chelsea were unable to really get into their stride.
This was illustrated by the astonishing fact that the first foul committed by either side came just after half-time, so it is easy to imagine why there was a dearth of any real action in an uninspiring first half.
After providing the Carrow Road crowd with the one bit of real quality in the first half, Torres then gave them a reason for their biggest cheer of the afternoon with an hour gone.
Daniel Sturridge picked up the ball down the right channel and his cross deflected off Bradley Johnson to the feet of the Spain international with the goal in his sights.
The reactive roar was almost deafening as Torres managed to poke the ball past Ruddy’s left hand post when just six yards out – a very poor miss that seemed to deflate the striker.
It then looked as though Andre Villas-Boas’ side were going to step up a gear, two minutes later Sturridge found Juan Mata running into the left hand side of the box.
The diminutive Spaniard only had Ruddy to beat but the angle was tight and the Norwich ‘keeper got down well to make a one-handed save at his near post.
Man-of-the-match Ruddy was called into action twice more to keep his side in the game.
A stinging shot from Ramires just outside the area on 73 minutes required good handling and Ruddy was equal to it, collecting the ball in his midriff.
With barely ten minutes left, the former Everton man then denied Mata once more after a turn and shot looked to be heading into the corner but Ruddy used all of his six feet and four inches to get a hand to it.
Lambert will be delighted with his number one’s display, as it proved decisive in a tight game that neither side were able to dominate with any real conviction.
A draw leaves Chelsea five points behind third-placed Tottenham and the draw means, unless results go their way tomorrow, their dwindling title hopes must surely now be over.
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