LONDON • Severely criticised for concentrating on feuding rather than football this season, Diego Costa was on his best behaviour on Saturday, like the rest of his Chelsea team-mates, and was sufficiently focused on the job at hand to score the winning goal.
Still, for all the possession they enjoyed, Chelsea were so blunt an attacking force for much of the game that it was difficult to see this 1-0 victory over Norwich at Stamford Bridge as signalling the swift climb up the table which many believe the champions of England are still capable of.
Chelsea remain in the bottom half of the table with a third of the season gone. "The fourth position for me is not an impossible mission," manager Jose Mourinho said. "If you ask me about the title, I will say impossible mission, maybe Tom Cruise can do it for us.
"It's complicated because you have to recover points from four candidates. Fourth position is difficult, but it is a possible target."
The home supporters were just starting to give vent to their frustrations when Costa struck in the 63rd minute.
Cesc Fabregas, who had shown the same imperious form as last season to help carve out a series of Chelsea chances, took a quick free kick which set Costa one on one with Ryan Bennett and looking as if he was switched on for a change.
The Spaniard, who again missed chances, made it look easy, moving the ball on to his right foot before curling the ball past John Ruddy and into the corner of the net.
Cue massive relief and some pretty agricultural defending in the last 10 minutes, as Chelsea put a dismal run of three league defeats in a row to an end.
It was only Costa's third goal in 11 Premier League appearances this season. But Mourinho hoped it will prove to be a turning point for the striker.
"When you don't score goals, you get heavier and the pressure is there," said Mourinho about the player who has come in for growing criticism, after struggling to recapture the form he showed during his Chelsea's march to the Premier League title last season.
Norwich, who have won only once away this season and have a particularly bad record against London teams, were denied a first-half penalty when Willian challenged Robbie Brad.
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE