Olivier Giroud headed Chelsea to a 1-0 home win over Norwich City to boost the Blues’ Champions League qualification hopes.
Leicester’s shock 4-1 hammering at Bournemouth and Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Southampton had handed Frank Lampard’s men a double reprieve after their comprehensive loss at Bramall Lane.
The Blues couldn’t afford to waste such an unexpected opportunity to cement third place in the table against the already-relegated Canaries, and boss Lampard knew as much – making five changes from the weekend’s frustrating defeat.
The win for Chelsea means they now boast a four-point lead on fourth-placed Leicester and United in fifth, though both those teams have an extra game left to play.
On another night Giroud could have had four, but in the end his solitary headed goal could wind up finally pushing the Blues into next term’s Champions League.
Right at the end of the first-half, Giroud put paid to a hugely frustrating 45 minutes, which saw the Frenchman miss a host of chances.
Christian Pulisic, who struck the bar in Chelsea’s search for an opener, had drifted onto the left wing, checked back onto his right foot – and delivered a sumptuous cross.
Giroud showed why his aerial ability is still up there with the best in the division, holding off Timm Klose to powerfully head beyond Tim Krul in the Norwich goal from close range.
Giroud was replaced by Tammy Abraham in the closing stages, and could easily have scored four on another night – but with the crucial win in the bag, neither Giroud nor Chelsea will care too much about those missed chances.
Final score: Chelsea 1-0 Norwich City