Leicester Up Against The Odds
With Leicester City not having kept a clean sheet since their season opening fixture against Wolves, and every outfield starter in the Chelsea 11 having scored this campaign prior to kick-off, it appeared a daunting test for the home team on paper. Leicester were without Youri Tielemens and Chelsea had Timo Werner and Christian Pulisic returning to the squad, and starting on the bench.
On the pitch, inside two minutes, former Leicester City player Ben Chilwell, relentlessly boo-ed by most of the supporters inside the King Power stadium, hit the crossbar with a rising volley, finding himself bearing down on Kasper Schmeichel, who would have been grateful that Chilwell failed to trouble him.
Chilwell, who enjoyed the close attention of Marc Albrighton’s marking all afternoon, swung in a corner on 14 minutes which connected with the back of Antonio Rudiger ‘s head, flicking the ball up and beyond Schmeichel, putting the visitors 1-0 up. Rudiger, who has nine Chelsea career goals, has remarkably now scored four of these against Leicester City.
It was halfway through the first-half until Leicester began to trouble the Chelsea back three made up of Trevoh Chalobah, Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger, when Jamie Vardy bore down on them with the ball at his feet. Ademola Lookman put the ball into Edouard Mendy’s net, but it was ruled offside, a rare chance he would have rued, as moments later Chelsea doubled their lead.
Reece James received the ball on the right-hand touchline, managing to turn the defender in a tight area to find another former Leicester player, the marauding N’Golo Kante in space. Kante drove through the final third of the pitch, with Leicester players unable to get near him and carried the ball nearly 30 yards before curling the ball past Schmeichel from outside of the box in the 28th minute of the game.
Leicester City were clearly rattled by Chelsea’s dominance, Schmeichel gave the ball away with a poor goal kick straight to Callum Hudson-Odoi, who’s poor first touch meant that Schmeichel was again a relieved man, yet he and team-mates Daniel Amartey and Jonny Evans all picked up yellow cards in a fiery first 45 minutes.
Tuchel, the Tinker-man
The second half was instantly more competitive than the previous had been, and Mendy was called upon to make a save within minutes of the restart. Just as it felt like Leicester could perhaps create an opportunity to get back into the game, a double substitution on the hour mark saw Thomas Tuchel introduce substitutes Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech for Kai Havertz and Mason Mount, both of whom had relatively quiet games, breathing new life into Chelsea.
Daniel Amartey forced a flying save from Mendy on 63 minutes, but any hopes of a Leicester revival were dashed when the two substitutes, Ziyech and Pulisic combined to score a third, with Pulisic sliding in from close range to connect with Ziyech’s cross from the right-hand side.
Though the score line remained 3-0 to Chelsea, they had the ball in the net a further three times, all of which were ruled offside, sparing Leicester further blushes. Thiago Silva, at the back for Chelsea was rock solid for the league leaders, his endless clearances and pinpoint passes earnt him the man of the match award, capped off by a bicycle kick to relieve any threat to Edouard Mendy. Mendy, who was booked by referee Paul Tierney for time-wasting, can consider this his only misdemeanour.
Chelsea’s performance today was explosive, and blew Leicester away all before lunchtime, putting down a real marker of their dominance as they head into a congested period of fixtures. The title race is truly on, and it’s Chelsea who are the team to chase.