Chelsea are off the mark in the Premier League but had to settle for a point against a resurgent Leicester City at Stamford Bridge, in Frank Lampard’s first home game as Chelsea head coach.
Fellow home debutant Mason Mount put us in front early with an excellently taken goal as the Blues burst into life, but Leicester gradually gained a foothold in the contest and deservedly levelled through Wilfred Ndidi in the second half.
Either side could have won it, but in the end it was Kepa Arrizabalaga rather than Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal that was the busier of the two keepers.
Lampard of course received a huge Stamford Bridge welcome when he emerged from the tunnel before the game, but having seen his side start so well will have been frustrated not to have been out of the sight before the break.
For his first home game in the Chelsea dugout, Lampard made one change from that which performed so well in Istanbul on Wednesday, changing shape to a 4-2-3-1. Mount, making his home debut, would reward the boss’s bravery in going with a more attacking formation, with Mateo Kovacic the man to drop to the bench. Christian Pulisic also started his first game at the Bridge, with former Leicester man N’Golo Kante in midfield.
The Chelsea opener arrived on six minutes but already felt overdue. Within the opening minute, Pedro had hit the side-netting with a powerful volley after Olivier Giroud had chested down inside the area, and Mount had worked Schmeichel with another low effort before Leicester scrambled the ball away at a corner.
When the goal came, it will have delighted Lampard. He has praised Mount’s quality and work-rate throughout pre-season, and the youngster demonstrated both to full effect to give the Blues the lead.
There looked no danger for the visitors after Schmeichel rolled the ball out, but Mount was quick to press and dispossessed Ndidi on the edge of the box, slotting home into the far corner beyond the goalkeeper.
The 20-year-old could have doubled his tally 15 minutes later, but his close-range header fell straight into Schmeichel’s arms. Shortly afterwards, Kante was denied a certain goal by Chritian Fuchs after Emerson and Giroud had teed him up six yards out.
Chelsea had been superb, looking dangerous with every attack. By contrast, Leicester had barely managed to stage one, their midfielders quickly squeezed by the Chelsea press, making it difficult to get balls in behind for striker Jamie Vardy.
The closest the game to a goal in the first half was when Arrizabalaga got his feet in a muddle, allowing Vardy to close him down, but thankfully Kurt Zouma was on hand to spare the goalkeeper’s blushes and clear the ball to safety. Kepa made amends shortly before the break when he was quick out of his area to head away a through-ball intended for Ayoze Perez.
Vardy was caught just offside at the beginning of the second period, but his sharp movement should have been a warning to the Blues. Not long later, he made space for Maddison’s run and having managed to round Kepa, the midfielder would have expected to score but was pushed wide and had to pull the ball back, allowing Chelsea to recover and clear.
At the other end Giroud headed straight at Schmeichel before two more Leicester opportunities, first Kepa saved from Hamza Choudhury and then Maddison fired across goal having twisted and turned his way into space.
The equaliser arrived 25 minutes from time and was as straightforward as they come. Maddison swung over a corner and Ndidi rose highest to atone for his first-half error, crashing in a header from eight yards.
Having looked well off the pace early on, Leicester twice should have gone in front. Maddison had become central to everything the Foxes were creating and this time he went alone, beating his man inside the area but inexplicably firing over with the goal at his mercy. Then it was Vardy’s turn, the former England striker racing through but dragging his left-footed shot past the far post.
The Blues had been on the ropes but continued to plug away, substitute Willian and Mount scheming away behind Tammy Abraham, on in place of Giroud. It was at the Shed End though, that which we were defending, that the better opportunities continued to come.
Two minutes from time, Kepa had to beat away a goalbound Youri Tielemans shot and just beat Vardy to a loose ball at the death, ensuring a dramatic game ended with a share of the points.
It is not the result we wanted but, on the balance of the 90 minutes, was a fair one with Chelsea having been on top for much of the first period and Leicester creating the better opportunities in the second.
It means we pick up our first point of the campaign, with plenty of positivity still buzzing around the Bridge following the final whistle. Next up, it’s Norwich.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Zouma, Christensen Emerson; Kante, Jorginho (Kovacic 71); Pedro, Mount, Pulisic (Willian 71); Giroud (Abraham 61).Unused subs Caballero, Tomori, Alonso, Barkley.
Scorer Mount 6Booked Jorginho 37
Leicester City (4-3-2-1): Schmeichel (c); Pereira, Evans, Soyuncu, Fuchs; Choudhury (Praet 72), Ndidi, Tielemans; Perez (Albrighton 80), Maddison; Vardy.Unused subs Ward, Justin, Morgan, Barnes, Iheanacho.
Scorer Ndidi 66
Referee Oliver Langford