Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink revelled in his side’s new-found tendency to unlock a winning formula after moving into the top half of the Premier League for the first time since August with victory at struggling Norwich last night.
Brazilian full-back Kenedy notched the quickest goal of the Premier League season so far before striker Diego Costa struck in first-half stoppage-time to render Nathan Redmond’s reply in the second period a consolation.
Chelsea are now unbeaten in their last 11 league matches, while the Blues recorded a third successive victory for the first time since April 2015 to move to eighth in the table, eight points adrift of Manchester City in fourth.
Norwich’s form, meanwhile, is desperate. The Canaries have lost eight of their last nine matches and taken just one point from a possible 24. Defeat, coupled with Sunderland’s draw at home to Crystal Palace, saw the Canaries slip into the relegation zone.
“Everyone knows how we started in December. We were down in almost the relegation zone and we had an in-between target to get out of there as soon as possible,” said Hiddink.
“We started to do that with draws and now we’ve won a few games in a row, which is encouraging.
“We didn’t want to go into their [Norwich] battle but they forced us to go into their battle. We were sloppy and I think we could have finished it off in the first half.
“We were complacent in the last pass and in the end they made our lives difficult.”
Chelsea opened the scoring after just 39 seconds as Kenedy cut inside following a driving run from rejuvenated playmaker Eden Hazard and fired a low shot from the edge of the box beyond Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy.
The Blues doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time when a suspiciously offside Costa latched onto Burkina Faso forward Bertrand Traore’s threaded through ball and chipped the ball over an advancing Ruddy for his 10th goal in 14 matches.
Norwich striker Cameron Jerome had wasted numerous chances in the opening period and struck the crossbar moments after the re-start with a hooked effort following Russell Martin’s header across goal.
But the Canaries continued to probe and winger Redmond halved their deficit in the 68th minute as he lashed a right-footed shot from Wes Hoolahan’s pass high into Thibaut Courtous’ net.