A first-minute strike from Kenedy inspired Chelsea to a tense win over relegation candidates Norwich City at Carrow Road.
Taking the ball in his stride, the Brazilian feigned one way before cutting inside and lashing a rasping drive across John Ruddy and into the bottom corner in what is the fastest goal in the Premier League this season.
Diego Costa then coolly lifted the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to give the Blues a comfortable half-time advantage, but Nathan Redmond capitalised on some hesitant defending to set up a grand-stand finish.
Thibaut Courtois came to Chelsea’s rescue late on with an injury-time save as the Blues made it a dozen games unbeaten in the Premier League – moving them up to eighth in the process.
Now just four points off a Europa League position and on a three-game winning sequence for the first time since April 2015, Chelsea’s fortunes have turned for the better under the tutelage of Guus Hiddink, who has now overseen a run during which the Blues have picked up 24 points from a possible 36.
The big team news from a Chelsea perspective was Hiddink’s selection of Kenedy at left-back over Baba Rahman, who endured a torrid afternoon in Saturday’s win over Southampton, and Bertrand Traore alongside Oscar and Eden Hazard behind Costa, the lone striker. Willian and John Mikel Obi were rested. New signing Alex Pato was amongst the substitutes for the first time.
The decision to go with the youth paid instant dividends – inside a minute, Kenedy had capped a whirlwind start with his first Premier League goal for the club, and in first-half stoppage time, Traore slipped the ball through for Costa to lob Ruddy and give the visitors a seemingly unassailable lead.
Following a first-half performance full of invention and creativity, Chelsea emerged for the second period a shadow of that same team, typifying complacency rather than composure as they allowed Norwich to gain a foothold in the game.
And that lifeline came via Redmond’s right foot as he smashed the ball beyond Courtois with twenty minutes remaining to set up a nervous finish.
The same player fooled most inside Carrow Road when his shot moments later hit the side-netting, and only a combination of Courtois’ palms and a brave block from Gary Cahill preserved the points on what could be a season-defining evening.
“It was horrible by the end”, said England defender Cahill after the game.
“The last 15 to 20 minutes was tough. But in first half we were in control. In the second, it was a totally different game. Credit to them. It feels good to dig in and grind out the result”.