Norwich City 0 - 1 Chelsea

Match info: Premier League at Carrow Road

Date: 26/12/2012 KO: 15:00 Ref: J Moss Att: 26,831

Home team/scorers Scores Away team/scorers

Norwich

0
vs
1

Chelsea

Juan Mata 38

FT (ht: 0-1)

  • Last Updated: December 26 2012, 18:36 GMT

Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez hailed Juan Mata as one of the best players in the Barclays Premier League after the Spaniard struck the winner in a 1-0 victory at Norwich.

Mata scored the only goal
Mata scored the only goal

Despite not hitting the heights of the 8-0 thrashing dished out to Aston Villa on Sunday, Chelsea were the better side in a game that lacked any sustained quality.

Mata struck from 25 yards in the 38th minute to settle the match and condemn Norwich to a second defeat in four days, with the Canaries failing to truly test Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech over the course of the game.

The win moves the Blues to within four points of Manchester City in the Premier League table and Benitez was full of praise for his compatriot.

"He is playing really well," he said.

"Even without the ball he is working hard but when we are in possession he is making the difference, I always say the same; if the team are playing well these players can make the difference.

"I think the Premier League has a lot of good players and Mata is one of the best for sure - he can be even better.

"Mata is a player who is dangerous - inside the box and outside the box, we are really pleased with him.

"The team has won three games in a row since Japan...against Man United and Arsenal they (Norwich) have won so we knew it could be tough, I'm pleased for the team and pleased for Juan."

Benitez left Frank Lampard on the bench for the trip to Norfolk amid speculation he will leave Stamford Bridge next summer.

But the former Liverpool boss was bullish about the future of Lampard and fellow England star Ashley Cole.

"From my position it is very easy, it is a private conversation between Frank and the club and that is it. He is a good player and I would like to bring the best from him, that is my position.

"I don't know if Ashley has had the conversations or not but, for me, they are players under contract, good players.

"After being injured like he (Lampard) was, we needed fresh legs and we have to manage the squad," he said

"We can't play so many game with the same players so we have to manage and everyone is important."

Norwich boss Chris Hughton was pleased with the endeavour shown by his side to limit a talented Chelsea team to only a few chances.

"I thought we dealt with them for really big periods of the game, the chances they had I thought were fairly minimal, we restricted them," he said.

"As the game opened up in the second half I think we broke very well and showed good energy and might have got a draw in the end."

But Hughton was unhappy with the wastefulness his players showed when they were in possession.

Mata's goal came after Norwich had gifted the ball to Chelsea and the Spaniard had missed a chance only minutes earlier after David Luiz had won possession from Wes Hoolahan.

"The area I was disappointed in during the first half was that, we have been good on the ball, but we were a little bit loose and it allowed them to have three or four good counter-attacks," said Hughton.

"We dealt with them eventually very well but it was a ball that was given away (that led to the goal), they broke very well and we got bodies around the ball but I think you have to admire the strike.

"That is why Chelsea pay the money they do for the attacking players they have and it was probably the one real bit of quality in the game that perhaps deserved a goal."

The defeat for the Canaries followed Saturday's 2-1 reverse at West Brom and leaves Hughton's side 11th in the table with champions Manchester City the visitors to Carrow Road at the weekend.


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