Chelsea title hopes appear over after Norwich draw
LONDON (AP) — Jose Mourinho accepted Chelsea’s Premier League faint title hopes had been extinguished by a 0-0 draw against Norwich on Sunday, with the manager bemoaning the team’s laziness and misfiring strikers as his first season back in charge ends with a whimper.
Neither striker Demba Ba nor Fernando Torres came close to scoring as Chelsea was left unsuccessfully appealing for penalties in this drab penultimate game of the season.
“Our strikers are good strikers, no doubt about that, but players with some specific qualities,” Mourinho said. “They are not the kind of players in five square meters with three or four players around who can get the ball, can dribble around and make the shot.
“So when the team is in a difficult situation they are not able to normally resolve that situation for us.”
It likely means Mourinho’s first season back at Chelsea will end without a trophy. Chelsea, with one game left, is a point behind Manchester City and Liverpool, who both have two matches remaining and a superior goal difference.
“We tried everything but at the end of the day we knew we had no chance of being champions,” he added.
Chelsea is three points ahead of fourth-placed Arsenal, which also has one game left, but the Blues have a much better goal difference.
A draw at Stamford Bridge would usually be something to celebrate for Norwich — giving Neil Adams his first point in his fourth game as interim manager — but it leaves the club closer to the drop. Norwich needs Sunderland to lose to West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday and Swansea on Sunday, when the Canaries must beat Arsenal.
Realistically, the season seems to be over for both Norwich and Chelsea, which still seemed to be affected by Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal loss to Atletico Madrid.
“The first half was typical of the consequence of that state of mind,” Mourinho said.
“It was a lazy first half,” he added. “Slow, no pressure, the midfield weren’t arriving to press the opponent.”
Chelsea was fortunate that referee Neil Swarbrick dismissed Norwich’s penalty claims after 11 minutes when Martin Olsson was fouled in the area by John Terry. Chelsea didn’t make the most of its reprieve, with the hosts unable to trouble goalkeeper John Ruddy, who easily saved Terry’s header.
Andre Schuerrle did manage to hit the inside of the post but his follow-up was easily collected by Ruddy, and Willian completely miscued a shot just before half time. Defender David Luiz made a quick impact at the start of the second half after replacing Frank Lampard, but the crossbar denied Chelsea this time. Then came Chelsea’s penalty claims, with Schuerrle first brought down by Alexander Tettey and Ryan Bennett making slight contact with second-half substitute Eden Hazard.
“Hazard, I saw,” Mourinho said. “I saw in the game, but to confirm I had a quick run to my office which is just there, and I arrived in time to watch and then go back to the dug-out laughing ... because I can’t cry.”
With one of his assistants, Rui Faria, starting a six-game stadium ban for misconduct toward match officials, Mourinho imposed a vow of silence toward Sunday’s referee.
“My assistant is in jail and I don’t want to comment,” Mourinho said.
The Portuguese was happier discussing another unsatisfactory performance from his strikers, summed up by Torres failing to make a clean connection late on after Hazard’s shot was parried. For Mourinho, the summer mission is to overhaul his strike force with Atletico striker Diego Costa primed for a move to west London.
“It’s a long summer for us ... to sit and to discuss and analyze options, the market,” Mourinho said.
Veteran players could be leaving, with 33-year-old defender Ashley Cole out of contract at the end of the season and tearful on the pitch after Chelsea’s final home game. Terry, who embraced the emotional Cole, and Lampard are also yet to secure new contracts.
“They are with the club on their future,” said Mourinho, who wants the trio to stay.