A 64th-minute goal from wayward striker Diego Costa earned Chelsea their first win in four Premier League matches on Saturday and some breathing space for Jose Mourinho, who said he was still targeting a top-four finish.
Costa had been anonymous for most of the 1-0 win over Norwich City.
He had hung back during waves of Chelsea attacks, shot high when set up by Pedro in the first half, failed to get on the end of crosses from Willian and Eden Hazard and hesitated in front of an open goal before halftime.
But he made up for his quiet first hour when he controlled a quickly taken free kick from Cesc Fabregas, steadied himself and placed the ball out of reach of a diving John Ruddy for his third Premier League goal of the season.
“Every game you don’t score goals you have five kilos more pressure added,” Mourinho said.
Mourinho kept faith with Costa despite the Brazilian-born Spain striker’s dearth of goals and suspect discipline this season.
“The goal was important for him. It was important for us. He tries everything. He’s positive. If I had to choose anyone to score the winning goal I would choose him.
“Everything is connected. When you are full of confidence it’s not just about goals you have fluency in your decisions, you choose well. When you lose confidence you lose this fluency.”
The champions, struggling near the foot of the table after losing seven Premier League games this season, were clearly the superior side, keeping the lion’s share of possession.
But jangling nerves showed throughout as they failed to penetrate a disciplined Norwich defence, misplacing the final pass or snatching at the goalbound shot.
“I think we don’t deserve the heartbeat of the last four minutes. We deserved to be relaxed but we couldn’t,” the Portuguese coach said.
“Once again the relation between the way we played and the number of goals we scored was not good. We could have scored four or five. But we got the result and are happy about that.”
Mourinho said he was not generally nervous during a game but the dying moments were tough.
“It’s a bit of a relief… (Kurt) Zouma hit the post… then in the last minute maybe we could have scored an own goal so yes there’s a bit of relief.”
The coach, whose club offered him another vote of confidence this week when technical director Michael Emenalo said he trusted Mourinho to pull Chelsea out of their slump, said fourth place and a Champions League spot was still on the cards.
“We have to go game after game. The fourth position is not an impossible mission,” he said.