Match Report

Report: Chelsea 0 Leicester 1

The final home game of 2018 was one of disappointment for the Blues who lost at Stamford Bridge for the first time under Maurizio Sarri.

A Jamie Vardy goal shortly after half-time did the damage on a day when we were left to rue chances to score in each half which hit the woodwork.

The creative side of our play today did not make enough opportunities to overcome a strong Leicester display, especially after they went ahead, but Eden Hazard fired against the crossbar in the first period and then, in the dying moments, Macros Alonso struck the post.

At the other end, Kepa Arrizabalaga made two quality saves to keep the Leicester tally down to a single goal. Overall, the Chelsea shots on-target count was limited to five with the Foxes managing three.

For the third league game running, Hazard was selected as the most central striker. The team as a whole was the one that had beaten Manchester City and Brighton, but today it fell short.

An early high ball into the Leicester box nearly led to an early goal as it bounced between Kasper Schmeichel and Willian, tantalisingly close to our Brazilian.

It would be a little while before the Blues threatened again, and we were thankful to some sharp David Luiz defending for dealing with a couple of Leicester moments going forward.

Mateo Kovacic lofted a shot well over the Shed End goal and N’Golo Kante nearly got on the end of a move much closer to the target as the Blues began to turn our superior share of possession into serious pressure. We really came close to a goal on 17 minutes when Pedro’s near-post flick-on from a corner was only an inch or two away from being turned in at the far post by a leaping David Luiz.

On 25 minutes the Blues did what we needed to do against a well-organised and well-populated Foxes rearguard – namely to move the ball around quickly with one-touch football, but Cesar Azpilicueta’s eventual shot cleared the bar.

Wilfred Ndidi became the first player booked on half-an-hour, unsurprisingly for felling the Premier League’s most fouled player – our Eden, who by his standards had only been involved sporadically by that stage of the game.

Two minutes later however he should have been celebrating his 100th Chelsea goal after latching onto a Harry Maguire mistake but by shooting unusually high for him, he clipped the top of the crossbar.

It had been all Chelsea for half-an-hour but five minutes before the break the East Midlanders did break out and it needed an exceptional save by Kepa to keep out a 30-yard rocket from Ndidi.

If Willian had been able to find even half that power when he was on the end of a good retaliatory move by the Blues then he may have beaten Schmeichel from much closer range. Jorginho did hit a cleaner strike which the Leicester keeper beat away, so the teams went down the tunnel at the break with Stamford Bridge awaiting the opening goal.

Five minutes into the second half the deadlock was broken by the visitors. The Blues were undone through the middle – with James Maddison playing the final through-ball to Vardy who had nipped between David Luiz and Azpi and beat Kepa with a first-time shot. 

Not for the first time in recent weeks, the Blues did not react well to conceding although Schmeichel pulled off a very sharp save seven minutes later to prevent Hazard levelling the scores with a near-post shot. Kovacic had found Hazard with a good pass but by now Leicester were giving as good as they were getting.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Olivier Giroud together, and Cesc Fabregas later, were introduced as we sought the winning formula, or at least one that could equalise. A Giroud knock-down was almost turned into a shooting chance by Hazard, but in the end he was crowded out.

Kepa saved well again, from Marc Albrighton, with 10 minutes to go while for Chelsea, the closest we had come to a late equaliser was from a Pedro corner which came off the top of Rudiger’s head and went wide. Then came the Alonso chance.

The four minutes added-time board had just come down when a Kante ball behind the defence found the left-back’s run. He steadied himself and beat Schmeichel but then saw the ball cannon back off the upright. Agonising!

With Manchester City losing at home, this feels like a big missed opportunity. We stay ahead of Arsenal in fourth place on goal difference.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Rudiger, David Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho (Fabregas 75), Kovacic (Loftus-Cheek 60); Willian (Giroud 60), Hazard, Pedro.
Unused subs Caballero, Cahill, Zappacosta, Barkley.

Leicester (4-3-3): Schmeichel; Pereira, Maguire, Morgan (c), Chilwell; Choudhury, Mendy Ndidi; Albrighton (Gray 82), Vardy (Iheanacho 83), Maddison.
Unused subs Ward, Fuchs, Evans, Iborra, Okazaki.
Scorer Vardy 51
Booked Ndidi 30, Mendy 81

Lee Probert
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