Chelsea showed they can cope with Roman Abramovich’s turmoil as they won 3-1 against Norwich just hours after their Russian owner was sanctioned by the British government, as Leeds plunged deeper into relegation troubles on Thursday.
Thomas Tuchel’s side arrived at Carrow Road, rocked by the revelation that Abramovich is one of seven other oligarchs hit by new British sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
All seven are described as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, with Abramovich’s assets frozen in the UK and strict restrictions imposed on Chelsea, which are currently unable to sign new players, renew contracts or sell match tickets.
Abramovich had already announced his willingness to sell Chelsea, which have won 19 major trophies in his 19-year reign.
But if Chelsea’s future is shrouded in uncertainty, they remain a formidable force on the pitch and goals from Trevoh Chalobah, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz lifted the mood on the 117th anniversary of the club’s founding.
Chelsea, in third place, have won nine of their last ten games in all competitions and are nine points clear of number five Manchester United in the race to qualify for the Champions League via a top four finish.
Asked about the potential impact of sanctions on his team, Tuchel said: “Everyone can rest assured that we are focused on maintaining the attitude and mentality on the training pitch and within the team.
“Up to now we can trust each other and that will not change. As long as we have enough shirts and a bus to drive to the games, we’ll be there and fighting hard.”
Chelsea’s main shirt sponsor, mobile phone company Three, had responded to the sanctions by temporarily suspending the deal and asking for the logo to be removed from the team’s shirts.
But Chelsea still took the field in their blue home kit with the Three branding.
– Abramovich turmoil –
Despite the damage caused by their owner’s alleged ties to Putin, Chelsea’s traveling fans were quick to salute Abramovich as they loudly chanted his name before the Blues took a third-minute lead.
Mount’s corner reached Chalobah and the defender headed into the bottom corner.
Chelsea couldn’t have picked a better opponent than Norwich at the bottom to prove they can still function.
In the 14th minute Havertz Mount signed in the Norwich area and the midfielder hit a beautiful attack in the top corner.
Norwich’s Teemu Pukki scored a 69-minute penalty after Chalobah blocked a cross from Pierre Lees-Melou with his arm, but Havertz took Chelsea’s third with a sideways finish in stoppage time.
Leeds are still in serious danger of relegation after a 3-0 loss to Aston Villa at Elland Road.
Jesse Marsch’s first home game in charge was another disappointment after losing to Leicester last weekend in his first game since replacing Marcelo Bielsa.
Leeds have lost six consecutive league games and are just two points above the relegation zone, having played two more games than Burnley in third place.
Villa went on for the 22nd minute as Philippe Coutinho scored his fourth goal since being loaned from Barcelona.
Matty Cash struck in the 65th minute and Calum Chambers took the points eight minutes later.
Newcastle came another step closer to survival with a 2-1 win over Southampton, extending their unbeaten league streak to nine games.
Southampton took the lead in the 25th minute via Stuart Armstrong.
New Zealand striker Chris Wood headed Newcastle’s equalizer in the 32nd minute with his first goal since Burnley’s signing in January.
Newcastle midfielder Bruno Guimaraes marked his first start since his departure from Lyon with a sumptuous finish close behind in the 52nd minute, putting Eddie Howe’s side eight points above the relegation zone.
Wolves crushed Watford 4-0 with goals from Raul Jimenez, Daniel Podence and Ruben Neves, as well as an own goal from Cucho Hernandez.
Bruno Lage’s side ended a run of three consecutive defeats, leaving Watford three points behind on safety after a fifth loss in their last seven games.