Chelsea put all the off field issues aside for a short period with a convincing 3-1 Premier League victory away to Norwich City.
Norwich’s Teemu Pukki did make it a nervy second half for the travelling west London faithful in East Anglia as they savoured every minute with their ability to travel to away games in doubt for the rest of the season.
N’Golo Kante’s and Kai Havertz’s link-up play late on sealed the three points which provided a tonic to what ended up being a bitter and dark day for the current European and world champions.
“I think we were only relieved because of the game. We played a fantastic first half and were 2-0 up, but we played the second half as if we were three or four-nil up,” manager Thomas Tuchel reflected in his post-match press conference.
“It is never decided in the Premier League at 2-0. We were high enough in control in the first half but the opponent changed things up and were stronger. They had nothing to lose, took more risks and we struggled, we conceded and it was a tight one.
“Everybody needs to know it is never over and you need to take care of it better. That’s the relief in the end, I think, in general. It is not about the situation because the situation might change again tomorrow, but it won’t go away.”
Despite the win, a large majority of the national media slammed one aspect of Chelsea in this latest win, and that was the supporters.
football.london takes a look at just why the national media on whole were critical of fans who have gone through the the emotions since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started.
‘The chant boomed out for the first time before even the two teams had emerged. “ROMAN ABRAMOVICH!” sang the Chelsea fans, unapologetically, on what could be their last Premier League away trip for the foreseeable future.
‘The subject of their affection had of course just had his assets frozen and, while the enormity of that development is not actually lost on the majority of Chelsea fans, most were evidently determined that 90 minutes at Carrow Road would not involve sober reflection.
‘Rightly or wrongly, this was football as escapism, a celebration of 19 trophy-laden years before worrying about the hangover that will kick back in on Friday morning.
‘It all meant that the focus was as much in the stands as on the pitch, with the Chelsea supporters duly met with boos and “f- – – off Abramovich” in respect of the now sanctioned billionaire Russian, who was described on Thursday by the British Government as “one of the few oligarchs from the 1990s to maintain prominence under [Vladimir] Putin”.’
‘Freeze our assets. Curtail our hotel allowance. Link our 19 years of unbroken success to the enabling of a blood-stained dictator. It seems that the show really does go on – for now anyway – as on a crisp, clear Norfolk evening the players of Chelsea dished up an entertaining 3-1 Premier League defeat of an energetic Norwich.
‘Welcome to Chelsea, the afterlife: a place that felt, as the Norwich fans sang about dirty Russian money, like another lurch into the deeply strange parallel timeline of football and geopolitics in the year 2022.
‘News of the sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich had emerged shortly after 9am on Thursday morning. By lunchtime the boulevards of Norwich’s pedestrianised city centre were thronged with Chelsea supporters singing the blues away. We’ve got Tommy Tuchel: he knows just what to do. In which case, perhaps he could share it with the rest of us. Because nothing right now makes a great deal of sense.
‘As Chelsea’s away fans kept up an early wave of noise close to kick off there was a valedictory, Viking Funeral-style air about their boisterous good spirits, a sense of good cheer, of event-glamour about all this. Humans are odd creatures. Give us a tribe, a hill to die on: any hill, and often that’s enough.’
‘It had been a seismic day in the history of Chelsea, a football club in total disarray.
‘So in the grand scheme of things, a trip to the Premier League’s bottom team was the least of their worries.
‘Remarkably, they still managed to turn that into a drama as what looked set to be massive victory ended up as a bit of a struggle.
‘It was a strange occasion. And one the travelling fans, in particular, are unlikely to forget.
‘They will always remember where they were when the news filtered through that Roman Abramovich’s assets in the UK were being frozen.
‘Chelsea’s fans sang the name of Abramovich both before, during and after the match. Of course they did.
‘It is both embarrassing and distasteful from Chelsea’s fans but not unexpected. They will never stop, either, in the same way Tottenham’s fans make a point of including the Y word in their songs despite repeated requests to avoid this.
‘Chelsea’s shirt sponsor, Three, suspended its £40million deal and asked for its logo to be removed from the shirts although it remained for this game.
‘Carrow Road is not exactly a cauldron of hate for visiting teams. But there were jeers when the Blues’ line-up was announced while some home fans sang: “Chelsea are bankrupt, everywhere they go.”
‘Those in the away end chanted: “Chelsea get sanctioned, everywhere we go.”
‘Chelsea fans continued with “we’ve won it all,” and in return, Norwich supporters replied with “you’ve lost it all” along with “dirty Russian money.”
‘The west Londoners will have to get used to this sort of thing in the coming weeks and months.’
‘Given the enormity of events in Ukraine, it was crass in the extreme to hear Chelsea fans relentlessly celebrating Roman Abramovich, their shamed, sanctioned owner linked by the UK government to Vladimir Putin, who wages war on an innocent country.
‘Given the rising death toll from Kyiv to Kharkiv, and the scenes of horror in besieged Mariupol, it was tasteless for Chelsea fans to salute an owner accused by the government of ownership of a company “supplying steel to the Russian military which may have been used in the production of tanks”.
‘There’s defiance, fans’ default setting, and then there’s wilful arrogance and ignoring of geo-politics leading to further damage to their club’s reputation. Any sympathy for Chelsea followers for a situation not of their making disappears fast. Arrogance is not a good look, especially when the club is looking for a buyer.
‘It is, of course, not Chelsea who have invaded Ukraine, although some headlines appear to have blurred the narrative. Chelsea are simply owned by an oligarch who has finally had his assets frozen.’