NORWICH, England ( Associated Press) — Chelsea overcame the chaos of a turbulent day off the pitch to grind out a 3-1 win at Norwich on Thursday and stay in the driving seat for Champions League qualification.
The Blues took to the field at Carrow Road hours after learning owner Roman Abramovich had been sanctioned by the UK Government and had his assets frozen.
It meant Chelsea required a special license to even be allowed to play this midweek game, but goals by Trevoh Chalobah, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz still clinched all three points.
Teemu Pukki’s 69th-minute penalty had cut the deficit for Norwich and set up a nervy finale before Havertz’s late strike, but it was a welcome result at the end of another dramatic day for the club, which Abramovich had put up for sale last week amid Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine.
After a day in which the Champions League holder saw its club shop forced to close, ticket sales suspended and its very future mired in uncertainty, manager Thomas Tuchel was tasked with keeping the players’ focus firmly on the game and he made four changes from Saturday’s 4-0 win at Burnley.
Romelu Lukaku remained on the bench, with Timo Werner given a starting role, and it took only three minutes for the opener to arrive.
Two Chelsea academy graduates combined to break the deadlock, with Mount’s corner headed home at the near post by Chalobah to spark celebrations from the away fans.
Chants of support for Abramovich from the visiting supporters had started before kickoff and continued during the early exchanges, with the Chelsea shirts still sporting the logo of sponsor Three, despite the telecommunications company suspending its deal with the club earlier in the day.
It was 2-0 with 14 minutes on the clock when Havertz found Mount inside the area and the England international opened up his body to create space against Ozan Kabak before he curled home.
Bth teams made changes at halftime as visiting captain Cesar Azpilicueta was withdrawn, while home boss Dean Smith made a double substitution and ditched wing-backs for a flat back four.
Milot Rashica made an immediate impression with a fine run before he fired over from range, which at least signaled the hosts’ intent at the start of the second period.
The Chelsea supporters were soon back in full voice, chanting for Abramovich and singing “Chelsea get sanctioned everywhere they go”, but the momentum shifted in the 66th minute.
Pierre Lees-Melou raced onto a ball into the area and saw his cross hit the arm of Chalobah. Referee Martin Atkinson was advised by VAR to review the incident on the pitchside monitor and a penalty was awarded.
Norwich’s top scorer Pukki stepped up and sent Edouard Mendy the wrong way for his eighth goal of the season.
A yellow card for Chalobah further whipped up the home crowd and Tuchel turned to Lukaku and N’Golo Kante in the final exchanges to close out the win.
It was Kante who made his mark with an assist for Havertz to wrap up the points with a calm finish.
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