Jamie Vardy’s second-half goal was enough for Leicester City to see off Chelsea as the two sides did battle at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues will be kicking themselves as they squandered several late chances to equalise after their opponents took an unlikely lead through a likely scorer. Chelsea certainly seemed a long way off being one of the ‘elite’ clubs rumoured to be part of a breakaway European Super League, purportedly set to launch in 2021. It was Maurizio Sarri’s men who started the brighter of the two teams as Eden Hazard came back into the side as expected, with Olivier Giroud dropping to the bench.
But it was Pedro, also returning following the Carabao Cup clash in midweek, who had the first chance to open the scoring. He flicked Willian’s corner towards the back post but after David Luiz failed to nod it in, the ball dropped just wide. Cesar Azpilicueta then had a sighting of goal but his usual composure eluded him as he shanked well over the crossbar. Just five minutes later, Chelsea should have gone in front. A lapse in concentration from Harry Maguire allowed Hazard the chance to shoot from inside the box but he was too focused on power, thumping the ball onto the woodwork.
As the sides reached the halfway point, there was still time for another chance and this time it was Leicester’s turn as Wilfred Ndidi thundered a strike towards the top corner only to see it kept out magnificently by the acrobatic Kepa. That effort gave the visitors hope of all three points and they made that show just five minutes after half time. A typically fast Foxes counter-attack saw James Maddison drive into the space 30 yards from goal before slipping the ball through to Vardy who didn’t need a second invite, firing the ball into the back of the net.
It wasn’t any less than Claude Puel’s plucky side had deserved and they came close to doubling their unlikely advantage through the same man that had netted the first. Marc Albrighton’s low cross was parried into the path of the former England international but Azpilicueta was there to block, what would have been, a certain goal.
Some extremely resolute defending ensured Leicester retained their lead as Hazard saw two shots blocked by a collection of grey and orange shirts. The home side continued to press for an equaliser but failed to break down the wall marshalled by Wes Morgan. However, as the match reached its conclusion, they had two golden opportunities to salvage a point.
Antonio Rudiger was presented with an empty net to head into but after Kasper Schmeichel judged the delivery completely wrong, the German defender could only send his header wide. In the dying seconds, Marcos Alonso came even closer. Some intricate passing inside the Foxes’ half led to the full-back finding himself in acres of space in the penalty area but his effort found the post and rolled away to safety.
It was another disappointing defeat for Chelsea against a side on a poor run of form but they will still be in the top four at Christmas with a superior goal difference to 5th-placed Arsenal. Attention now switches to a trip across London to face Watford on Boxing Day.