Chelsea 4, Norwich City 0
JONATHAN REDHEAD The Canaries' FA Cup run came to an end at Stamford Bridge as they slipped to a cruel and undeserved 4-0 reverse against Chelsea.
Norwich City's FA Cup run came to an end at Stamford Bridge this afternoon as they slipped to a cruel and undeserved 4-0 reverse against Chelsea.
Two goals in injury time flattered the Premiership champions as Norwich had earlier threatened a shock despite losing goalkeeper David Marshall to injury 10 minutes into the game.
Had Dickson Etuhu's first half shot found the net and not hit a post while City were on top, the result might have been altogether different.
But as it was, Shaun Wright-Phillips gave Chelsea a half time lead with a deflected shot before Didier Drogba doubled the advantage early in the second half.
However, City seemed determined to score and hit the woodwork again, this time through Lee Croft's volley which produced an amazing save by Petr Cech.
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In the end the top flight giants were too strong and substitutes Michael Essien and Andrei Shevchenko both scored in the final moments to the disappointment of City's superb travelling contingent of 6000 fans.
Norwich City boss Peter Grant made one change from the side which defeated Blackpool on Tuesday for the FA Cup fifth round clash against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Simon Lappin returns to the side in place of Jurgen Colin.
Andy Hughes was expected to revert to right back with Lappin forming a midfield trio alongside Dickson Etuhu and Youssef Safri.
Lee Croft and Darren Huckerby were due to form a three pronged attack either side of Chris Brown.
Meanwhile Chelsea were expected to play a similar formation with Arjen Robben and Shaun Wright-Phillips flanking 25 goal striker Didier Drogba.
Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel and Lasssana Diarra made up the midfield trio.
At the back were Geremi, Khalid Boulahrouz, John Terry and Paulo Ferreira with Petr Cech in goal.
Chelsea kicked off on a crisp late winter afternoon but it was Norwich who started the most composed keeping possession for the first minute.
City actually reverted to a 4-4-2 formation with Lappin wide left, Croft wide right and Huckerby partnering Brown.
In the third minute Wright-Phillips registered the first shot on target with a tame 25-yard effort into the arms of David Marshall.
City's players seemed relaxed but Etuhu earned a talking to from referee Rob Styles for fouling Lampard. From the resulting 30-yard free-kick the England man forced Marshall to his left to parry the low drive away.
After 10 minutes, City received a serious blow when Marshall turned an ankle going for a cross and had to be replaced by Paul Gallacher.
The substitution did little to slow down City's early momentum and they forced a couple of corners but Lappin's delivery on each occasion was poor.
In the 16th minute Huckerby escaped his marker but his cross was just beyond Croft.
After 18 minutes, the excellent Etuhu almost opened the scoring. His low left footed shot from 22-yards smacked the face of the left hand post. The rebound fell kindly to Croft, but with the goal at his mercy from 18-yards out, Ferreira got back to block his side foot effort.
City had had an impressive opening 20 minutes and looked dangerous, while Chelsea had yet to get into their stride.
Etuhu was dominating midfield while Brown was winning everything up front.
After 27 minutes there was panic in the Chelsea area as Shackell's long free-kick came off the head of Dublin and fell around the six-yard box before Terry headed back to Cech. But just a minute later City had their first real scare as Robben, cutting in from the right, fired a left foot shot from the edge of the box which had Gallacher in all sorts of trouble but he somehow managed to palm the ball away to safety.
Suddenly Chelsea woke up as Robben and Wright-Phillips switched flanks.
On 30 minutes Wright-Phillips' hard work down the left teed up Lampard. His trademark drive from outside the box had pace, swerve and bend but Gallacher was equal to the task, diving to his left to parry clear.
Huckerby had been a peripheral figure but after 35 minutes his run down the left drew a crude foul from Diarra, and the Chelsea man received the game's first booking for his troubles.
The pressure was building on City and after 38 minutes the Premiership champions took the lead. Shackell managed to block a Lampard shot, but the rebound fell to Wright-Phillips and he volleyed high into the net from the edge of the area with the aid of a slight deflection off Hughes.
City did manage a corner after 41 minutes but the half cleared ball fell to Croft and he lashed over.
But in defending the corner, Boulahrouz went down with what looked like a wrist injury and had to be replaced by Michael Essien.
As injury time approached, Robben went on a mazy 60-yard run into the City box, but a last ditch tackle from the determined Hughes and a clearance from Safri resulted in just a goal kick.
Despite trailing at the break, City's players received warm applause from the mass bank of travelling fans as they headed for the dressing room.
t Half-time: Chelsea 1, Norwich City 0
City went for an instant response as the second half kicked off. Safri's high lofted pass was flicked on again by Brown, to set Lappin free on the left but his cross went disappointingly straight into the arms of Cech.
At the other end, Geremi delivered an equally disappointing effort as his cross eluded everyone in a packed City area.
On 48 minutes Dion Dublin made the tackle of the match when he robbed Robben as the Dutchman made another piercing run into the box. The blue tide continued to press and Dublin was forced to chest a Geremi cross behind for a corner.
From the flag kick, the ball cleared everybody's head but hit the unsighted Chris Brown. It ricocheted into the path of Drogba and all the Ivory Coast international had to do was spin and thump the ball home from inside the six-yard box for 2-0.
As the travelling fans went quiet, for the first time in the game, Chelsea forced another corner which this time was cleared.
As City's cup dream seemed destined to failure, Jose Mourinho made a second Chelsea substitution on 55 minutes as Kalou replaced Drogba.
Peter Grant responded as he withdrew Etuhu and brought on Mark Fotheringham.
On the hour Chelsea almost extended their lead, after Safri brought down Kalou right on the edge of the box. Lampard stepped up to take the free-kick but it went inches over the wall and then the crossbar too.
The game was beginning to open up as Chelsea looked more and more likely to increase their two goal lead. On 65 minutes another mazy Robben run and shot forced yet another corner for the home side.
The ball was cleared but the Chelsea pressure was relentless as Norwich struggled to maintain possession of the ball despite Grant urging from the sideline for them to push forward.
As if things weren't bad enough for City, Jose Mourinho decided to make his final substitution and brought on £30m man Andrei Shevchenko in place of Frank Lampard on 69 minutes.
In the 72nd minute City did have the chance to apply some pressure of their own but Safri's in-swinging free-kick was easily cleared by the imperious Terry. When the ball came back to Safri, his follow up cross was straight down the throat of Cech.
Fotheringham was desperately trying to exert his influence on the game, and after beating two men in the Chelsea midfield his pass to Brown was wasted as the forward put the ball into touch as he tried to find Croft on the right.
After Shevchenko's introduction, Chelsea seemed to drop a gear and City had their best chance of the half. From a quick throw on 75 minutes, Hughes crossed, but Brown could do no more than glance his header wide from 12-yards out.
As City looked for a way back into the game, Hughes' frustration got the better of him and he was booked for abusing a referee's assistant after a throw was given against him.
City's final throw of the dice came on 76 minutes as Martin came on for Lappin. His introduction almost provided an instant result as his flick from Huckerby's chipped cross came to Croft. The winger did excellently to control his volley from 12-yards out, but Cech pulled off an almost unbelievable save to tip the ball onto the bar and away.
City now seemed to come alive and Shackell was next to try his luck from a Drury cross, however, his low left foot shot just found Cech's arms.
City were still pressing and after Huckerby was fouled, Safri disappointingly hitting a 25-yard free-kick way over the bar.
The game was now flowing from end to end and Shevchenko's right foot shot was deflected wide for a corner. The ball was only half cleared and as Wright-Phillips fired it back into the area, Shevchenko turned and blazed over from just inside the box.
City now threw Dublin into attack and the big man almost scored City's goal but his flick header and Drury's cross did not have enough pace to beat Cech who was now being worked for the first time in the game.
On 82 minutes the lively Fotheringham went flying into a tackle with Solomon Kalou and was booked.
A minute later and the Scot nearly had something to celebrate, he took a free-kick out of Safri's hands and from 20-yards his effort went over the wall but was caught by Cech underneath his crossbar.
City continued to press, but in the last minute of normal time the game was all over. Shevchenko found space inside the City box, he ran to the by-line and pulled the ball back left footed and Essien was waiting three-yards out to slot home left footed.
The goal was a real blow to City who had spent 20 minutes desperately searching for a goal. They continued to do so but from another free-kick Huckerby's run was ended inside the box and Chelsea went up the other end to score their fourth and bring a smile to Jose Mourinho's face.
From the left edge of the box Kalou jinked inside Hughes and crossed right footed. Shevchenko was free in the box and from 10-yards out he beat Drury to the ball and headed firmly into the corner with what was the last touch of the game.
It was a cruel blow for a Norwich City side that had worked tirelessly and did not deserve to lose 4-0.
t Result: Chelsea 4, Norwich City 0