On the back of Chelsea’s goalless draw on Wednesday evening with Arsenal, they failed to better that result in their Premier League clash with Leicester City.
Neither side could break the deadlock on Saturday afternoon after Antonio Conte decided to leave former Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater out of the squad while N’Golo Kante, also an ex-Fox, started. Claude Puel brought Jamie Vardy back into the starting XI after his injury but Adrien Silva didn’t make the squad. The hosts’ front line was made up of Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard, the latter of whom was handed his debut by Puel back in 2007 at Lille.
Leicester were playing their first game since 2014 without one of Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth or Christian Fuchs in the starting line-up but it was the visitors who dominated the early exchanges. They could have taken the lead inside 10 minutes as a Ben Chilwell whipped cross was met by Shinji Okazaki at the front post but the Japanese international fired his shot over the crossbar.
Then Jamie Vardy, who had scored seven goals in his eight matches against the ‘Big Six’ this season, got involved in the action and very nearly broke the deadlock, twice. He almost took advantage of a lapse in concentration from the Chelsea defence as his near post flick hit the side netting before he found space in the box and dragged his low effort one or two yards wide.
Instead of Chelsea getting a grip on the game, it got worse and Leicester had the best chance of the game after 12 minutes as Wilfred Ndidi looked like he had done enough with his header to beat Thibaut Courtois, but the Chelsea goalkeeper produced a top-drawer save at full-stretch to deny the Nigerian. The Foxes’ dominance wasn’t represented on the scoreboard after a handful of very good chances.
Riyad Mahrez looked dangerous every time he got on the ball and had the beating of the Blues backline. He slipped the ball in behind for Vardy, who couldn’t get a solid touch on the ball as another half-chance was missed by the visitors. Gary Cahill was then forced off through injury as he overstretched when trying to chase Vardy, his international teammate. Andreas Christensen came on to replace the Chelsea skipper.
Chelsea the had their first real chance of the game as Morata found space in the penalty area but Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester’s captain for the day, was equal to it with a strong save. This proved short respite for Conte’s side as they were defending yet another chance. Mahrez skipped away down the line and flashed a ball across the face of goal that needed the slightest of touches from one of his teammates.
The final chance of the first-half came for the Blues and it was Cesc Fabregas whose shot from the edge of the box needed saving, Schmeichel tipped the rising strike over the bar and out for a corner.
Chelsea grow into the game
It was clear from the first minute of the second half that Chelsea would be seeing more of the ball and they certainly looked more relaxed as Leicester began to tire. The hosts still struggled to create anything in the way of chances and they struggled to contain reported Liverpool target Mahrez, who had an appeal for a penalty turned down just before the hour mark. The Algerian forward wriggled his way into the box and looked to have been tripped by Christensen, only for the replays to show that he tried to initiate the contact, making him lucky to avoid a yellow card.
Then, in the space of just five minutes, Chilwell was given two bookings, firstly for a foul on Willian before receiving his marching orders for a lunge on Victor Moses. This gave the hosts a real way back into the match as Okazaki was substituted for Christian Fuchs, removing the man linking the midfield and attack for Leicester.
This forced a backs-to-the-wall approach for Puel’s men as they failed to gain a run of possession with increasing pressure from Chelsea. Kante, who’s not known for his goal scoring exploits, tested Schmeichel from 18 yards and the Danish stopper spilt the relatively easy save, which nearly fell to Morata. Tiemoue Bakayoko then spurned a chance well over the bar that he should have at least got on target. It was one half-chance in a period of high pressure from Chelsea where they failed to create clear-cut efforts because of organised Foxes defending.
As four minutes of injury time were indicated by the fourth official, the champions were handed their final chance to win the contest as Vicente Iborra fouled Willian less than 25 yards out. Stamford Bridge held its breath as Marcos Alonso stood over it but the Spaniard’s low free-kick was kept out by Schmeichel and the resulting corner led to nothing.
On an afternoon where Chelsea were the weaker side, for the most part, they can count themselves lucky to come away with a point. The draw leaves them third but if Liverpool can pick up an unlikely win over Manchester City tomorrow, they will end the weekend fourth and in real danger of missing out on Champions League football with Tottenham also hot on their tails.