STAMFORD BRIDGE, LONDON—As Jose Mourinho appeared from the tunnel at Stamford Bridge, you would be forgiven for thinking Chelsea's fortunes in the Premier League title race had taken a dramatic U-turn.
As is tradition in English football, the Chelsea team had reappeared after a goalless draw with Norwich City—their last home game of the season—to complete a lap of honor, thanking fans for their support throughout the campaign.
Mourinho was last out, and his name echoed around Stamford Bridge as if the title had been secured.
It's a measure of the adoration the Portuguese receives in these parts, but as touching a moment it may have been for him and the supporters, the reality is that 2013-14 will finish without any silverware residing in west London.
Regardless of a victory on Sunday, the likelihood of Chelsea pipping Liverpool and Manchester City to the top spot was always slim, but Mourinho would have preferred three points to take things to the last day when his team travels to relegated Cardiff City.
Instead, he was left frustrated in the same way he has been for much of the year.
Against a resilient Norwich, scrapping for Premier League survival, it was clear from the outset that this game was going to take a moment of brilliance to set Chelsea on their way.
They almost got that just after the half-hour mark when Andre Schurrle struck the post, while David Luiz smashed an effort against the crossbar shortly after the interval.
With a solid shout for a penalty being turned down when Eden Hazard was fouled in the box, the game soon had that feeling of inevitability about it—this wasn't going Chelsea's way.
"Yes, of course, yes," was Mourinho's response when asked in the post-match press conference if the game made him consider where Chelsea would have finished the season with a prolific striker.
"Our strikers are good players, no doubt about that. But they are players with some specific qualities. They are not the types of players who [in tight spaces] can get the ball and dribble around, can see the space, can make the shot.
"They are not these types of players, so when the team is in a difficult situation, they are not normally able to resolve that situation for us."
That difficult situation was playing a team largely content to decamp in their own half in a bid to avoid a defeat.
Some will point to Chelsea's recent display against Liverpool as the Blues doing much the same, that they got their comeuppance against Norwich—but this was different.
At Anfield, Chelsea had an intent to win. When Norwich visited Stamford Bridge, they didn't. A total of six shots in 90 minutes tells us that.
That's not to criticize the Canaries. What else could they do? The club is facing the prospect of relegation, and their aim was to ensure they have something to fight for on the final day.
With a point leaving them two behind Sunderland, they just might. For Chelsea, however, it's the same old set of problems, as ESPN's Miguel Delaney hinted via Twitter:
Against the top eight, Mourinho's side has lost just once all season. Against teams finishing in the bottom half of the table, they have lost four, drawing four.
Dropping 20 points from games in which they would have been overwhelming favorites is where their title hopes were damaged. And drawing against Norwich is where they were well and truly ended once and for all.
Mourinho has a team that is too reactive. They are masters at picking off opponents, absorbing pressure before hitting on the counter.
As we have seen against Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Norwich—the three teams since March who have stopped the Blues from scoring in the league—they struggle to survive when the same is done to them.
We thought they were going to get away with it just a few weeks ago, taking the title in Mourinho's first season back.
Time has caught up with them now, though, and on a balmy Bank Holiday afternoon, we saw just why.
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes
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