Norwich City 0-0 Chelsea
Fernando Torres frustrated again as Blues are held to a goalless draw at Carrow Road
Andre Villas-Boas' men had no shortage of possession and chances but a poor miss from the £50m Spaniard and some key saves from John Ruddy gave the hosts a precious point
Firing blanks | Torres again fails to the net as Norwich hold firm
Fernando Torres was guilty of missing a key chance as Chelsea stuttered once again, drawing 0-0 with a dogged Norwich City side who picked up their first clean sheet of the campaign.
Norwich recalled captain Grant Holt to the starting line-up alongside Steve Morison with the creative Wes Hoolahan dropping to a substitute role.
Andre Villas-Boas, meanwhile, elected for an attacking set-up with Daniel Sturridge returning to complement Fernando Torres and Juan Mata in the Chelsea attack. There was no debut for £7 million signing Gary Cahill, though, who was omitted from the matchday squad and had to watch from the stands.
The Blues monopolised possession in the opening minutes but Norwich started to break from the full-back positions and, with 10 minutes gone, forged a great chance as Morison combined brilliantly with Holt to lose the skipper in front of Petr Cech’s goal. The Canaries captain twisted himself into position and fired his shot agonisingly past the post.
Torres seemed in lively mood, and, leading a counter-attack for the visitors, he put hearts in mouths as he skipped past a yellow shirt to poke an effort low towards the corner, with John Ruddy intervening to turn it behind.
As the half drew on, Frank Lampard dropped to the floor clutching his calf, an injury that brought his afternoon to a premature end. The enforced change saw the introduction of Florent Malouda, who immediately threaded Mata through in the Norwich area before Ruddy denied the Spaniard.
Mata then arguably should have given the Blues a half-time lead when he picked up the ball in the inside-left channel following Russell Martin limply surrendering possession and made a thrilling run bearing down on the area. However, the ex-Valencia man rushed his shot somewhat and blasted over.
Anthony Pilkington then rushed back into his area to steal the ball from the waiting Sturridge, after Torres produced a burst of pace down the right to cross into the middle, ensuring that it remained goalless at the break.
Pilkington then caught the eye soon after the restart, cutting inside on his preferred left foot to unleash a fiery effort towards goal, but he drove it over the bar.
Chelsea responded on the hour with Torres taking hold of the ball in a crowded area, but the misfiring Spaniard was wayward once again, prodding his shot a hair’s breadth past the post when it would have been easier to score.
The Blues continued to pile on the pressure with Mata bursting down the left flank to force a great save from John Ruddy, dropping low to his right to deflect the winger’s effort.
Referee Mark Clattenburg then earned the scorn of the home support by waving away furied shouts for handball when Raul Meireles appeared to handle dangerously close to his own area.
With Torres hauled off, young Romelu Lukaku entered the fray for Chelsea but it was Mata again who proved the main threat. Picking the ball up in the centre of the area from the right-hand side, the diminutive attacker aimed for the bottom corner but once again Ruddy was there to drop low and tip it onto the post.
The Blues kept pushing with shots from Ashley Cole and Malouda coming to nothing, Ruddy again key in stopping the latter, but they could not find a way through and Norwich found themselves recording their first clean sheet of the season against the odds.
Bolton Wanderers 3-1 Liverpool
Davies, Reo-Coker & Steinsson strikes send lacklustre Reds to disappointing defeat
Kenny Dalglish's men were bettered throughout by their spirited hosts and sparked only briefly after Craig Bellamy's cool finish had given them hope before half-time
Bolton climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone with an impressive 3-1 win over Liverpool at the Reebok Stadium.
A coolly-taken opener from Mark Davies gave the Trotters the lead before Nigel Reo-Coker doubled it after an identically slick build-up from the hosts.
Craig Bellamy provided hope of a comeback before half-time but this was quickly extinguished by Gretar Steinsson’s volley early in the second period.
Bolton manager Owen Coyle chose to stick with the same side which were so comfortably beaten at Old Trafford in the Trotters’ last outing as former Liverpool striker David N’Gog led the line for the Lancashire side.
Meanwhile, opposite number Kenny Dalglish rang the changes after a frustrating home draw with Stoke City in their last fixture. Bellamy, Maxi Rodriguez and Andy Carroll formed the basis of a potent-looking attack whilst Daniel Agger made his return from injury. Defenders Sebastian Coates and Jamie Carragher missed out in the reshuffle as did Stewart Downing and Dirk Kuyt.
The visitors had looked comfortable in the opening exchanges, passing the ball with familiar vigour, but they were to be stung in ruthless fashion by their hosts’ first attack.
A ball inside to N’Gog saw the Frenchman flick brilliantly first-time to the onrushing Davies who took two touches as he ran into the box before firing past a helpless Pepe Reina.
The early goal understandably buoyed the home crowd and the visitors seemed rocked as moments later Jose Enrique gifted the ball to Chris Eagles only for the winger’s ball across goal to be left agonisingly untouched with the goal gaping.
Dalglish’s men had an opportunity to hit back on the counter just moments later but Rodriguez could only control a lofted ball with his hand in the opposition box and wasted a chance at goal.
The chance spurred Liverpool into further action and only desperate defending could prevent Bellamy driving home from a Rodriguez layoff in the box as their influence on the game grew.
Henderson’s drive from distance, after a trademark Agger run from defence, was then well stopped by Adam Bogdan as the Merseysiders cemented their hold on the game, if not the scoreline.
If the Reds had been looking more impressive than their opponents, they had infinitely less cutting edge as Reo-Coker proved by giving his side their second goal with their second clear chance.
In an almost mirror image of the first goal, a flick on allowed Eagles to burst from midfield but instead of the late-runner going alone, he passed to Reo-Coker, who confidently smashed past Reina to give his side an unlikely two-goal lead.
Reebok reverse | Davies' early goal was a sign of things to come
Given their terrible start, Liverpool barely deserved a chance to get back into the game but they got just that with eight minutes of the first half remaining.
A wonderfully controlled header from Carroll allowed Bellamy through on goal and the Welshman’s touch to take him away from defenders was equally impressive, leaving him to dink over Bogdan and give his side hope.
A free-kick from Petrov underlined the possibility of a Bolton third as Liverpool went in at half-time perhaps the more dominant side, but a goal down.
As the second half began, Dalglish’s men asserted their dominance as a clever passing exchange allowed Charlie Adam to fire at goal. Although the shot was blocked well, it provided ample confidence to a side hoping to get back into the game.
However, this wasn’t set to last for long, as Bolton extended their lead with just five minutes of the second half gone. A ball into the box was brilliantly won by David Wheater and dropped to fellow defender Gretar Steinsson, who produced a striker’s finish to put his side two goals to the good.
The visitors pushed even harder after conceding the third goal but their toothless forward line continued to provide more problems than answers as the Trotters held out resolutely.
This led to their manager producing a double substitution which saw the woeful Adam and ineffective Rodriguez replaced by Kuyt and Downing. The changes did little but solidify the poor state of affairs for those in Red as Coyle’s men stayed in command.
That the game was not going to change in Liverpool’s favour was then further emphasised as Agger drove onto the bar 20 minutes from time after a brilliant run.
A Bellamy strike from distance, well collected by Bogdan, simply compounded what was a damaging night for a side supposed to be chasing Champions League qualification.