LONDON (AFP) - Chelsea were held to a goalless draw by Norwich on Sunday, a result which handed the Premier League title initiative back to Manchester City and Liverpool.
The stalemate at Stamford Bridge all but ended Chelsea’s title bid, with Jose Mourinho’s men now a point behind both leaders City and second-placed Liverpool with just one match of their league season remaining.
Liverpool will return to the summit if they win away to Crystal Palace on Monday.
However, City will still have a game in hand on both Liverpool and Chelsea after Monday’s match at Selhurst Park.
Norwich’s battling effort left them on 33 points with one game remaining and on the brink of relegation.
Sunderland are also in danger on 35 points but the north-east side have two games still to play as do West Bromwich Albion, beaten 1-0 at Arsenal on Sunday, who have 36 points.
“It was quite a day,” Mourinho told Sky Sports as he criticised what he said were Norwich’s ‘defensive’ tactics, after himself coming under fire for “parking the bus” in Chelsea’s win at Liverpool last week.
“We had one team (Norwich) that needed three points to have a chance to survive – but didn’t play to win and a team (Chelsea) that needed a point to finish third and guarantee a Champions League group stage place that played to win.”
He added: “I said the title chance had been gone for a few weeks. Today was a question of pride and trying to give fans a victory at home.”
Norwich manager Neil Adams praised the Canaries’ “outstanding” display and he felt the visitors should have had a first-half penalty when Martin Olsson appeared to be taken out by John Terry.
“It keeps us going for sure. I thought the performance was outstanding. We had a game plan and virtually executed it to perfection. We were so strong, so solid.
“I felt we had a stonewall penalty in the first half and if we’d had got that we would have had two more points,” added Adams, whose side are at home to Arsenal on the final day of the season a week on Sunday.
Earlier, Arsenal celebrated their qualification for next season’s Champions League with a 1-0 win at home to West Brom.
France striker Olivier Giroud scored the only goal of the game when he headed in a 14th-minute corner.
Everton’s 3-2 defeat by Manchester City on Saturday meant Arsenal kicked-off at the Emirates Stadium knowing they could not be caught in the race for fourth place in the Premier League and a spot in next term’s Champions League.
“I believe the mentality of the team was outstanding (in reaching the Champions League),” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, whose side will look to end a nine-year spell without a major trophy when they face Hull in this month’s FA Cup final at Wembley.
“We still have games in front of us. You can be pleased of the attitude, but frustrated because we were top of the league (for 128 days) then we dropped off.
“We had injures – three or four players who missed too many games. And in some games, at the start away from home, we were caught by surprise.
“We were perhaps too cautious and not confident enough. We paid a heavy price for it.” This result left West Brom three points above the relegation zone, but still with two games to play.
Although Sunderland and Norwich are still below his side in the table, Baggies manager Pepe Mel refused to accept the Midlands side had beaten the drop.
“No, an extra point we need, we have two matches and one point to get,” the Spaniard said ahead of his side’s match at Sunderland on Wednesday.