Chelsea gain Leicester revenge as they seize top four initiative
Thomas Tuchel’s side win fiery encounter at Stamford Bridge after FA Cup final defeat
Chelsea celebrate Jorginho’s goal from the spot against Leicester. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/PA
Chelsea 2 Leicester City 1
This was some way for Chelsea to respond to adversity. They rose to the occasion in style in front of 10,000 fans, making up for losing the FA Cup final to Leicester with a victory that leaves them on the verge of qualifying for the Champions League.
Antonio Rüdiger’s first goal of the season and Jorginho’s penalty were enough for Chelsea side to take third place off Brendan Rodgers’s side and move four points clear of Liverpool, who visit Burnley tonight. Timo Werner was outstanding and Thomas Tuchel’s side were too strong for a timid Leicester, who probably need to beat Tottenham on Sunday to stand a chance of hanging on to fourth place.
This was the opposite of pandemic football: noisy, angry and brilliantly intense from the first whistle. Stamford Bridge was a raucous place long before kick-off and Chelsea fed off the emotion pouring down from the stands, pinning Leicester back and ripping forward at every opportunity. The pace was relentless and at times it was hard to see how Leicester, who could not afford to show any signs of an emotional hangover, could possibly hope to hold out when everything seemed to be stacked against them.
Chelsea were not interested in control. They were hungry for revenge after their disappointing performance at Wembley on Saturday and they craved an early goal.
The hosts needed something to lift the tension and the signs were encouraging when Werner raced towards the Leicester area after spinning away from Wesley Fofana near the halfway line, only for Ben Chilwell to spurn a chance to punish his old side, infuriating Tuchel by sending an angled shot wide.
As ever, Tuchel made no attempt to hide his feelings on the touchline, turning on his heels and howling into the west London sky after that miss. Yet Chelsea kept pushing, operating a shoot-on-sight policy at times. Reece James walloped wide from 25 yards and N’Golo Kanté tested Kasper Schmeichel as Leicester increasingly fell into containment mode, rarely breaking out of their half and giving Jamie Vardy little to work with.
A goal felt inevitable. The crowd were willing Werner on, applauding when the German raced back to win a tackle deep in Chelsea territory and showing appreciation when he charged at Leicester.
He was full of positive intent and it seemed that his moment had arrived when he finished adroitly after receiving a pass from the excellent Mason Mount, only to fall to his knees in despair after seeing the flag up for offside.
At that stage Chelsea must have feared that it was going to be one of those nights. Schmeichel denied them again, pushing over a rasping drive from Mount, and the officials came to Leicester’s aid shortly before the interval, VAR ruling that Werner had used an arm to bundle the ball over the line from close range.
In the event it was another German who calmed the nerves. Chelsea, who had to replace the injured Kanté with Mateo Kovacic in the 32nd minute, kept knocking on the door and their reward arrived two minutes into the second half.
Chilwell whipped a corner in from the right and it summed up the pattern of play that Vardy ended up gifting an opposition defender a goal with one of his few touches of the evening, Rüdiger in the right place to turn the ball in at the Shed End when the Leicester striker’s wayward clearance gave him a chance which he glanced in off his left thigh.
It was a moment of pure ecstasy for Chelsea. Rüdiger wheeled away to celebrate with the fans behind the goal and the hosts refused to settle for one.
Mount continued to link with Christian Pulisic, Werner remained a threat on the break and it was hard to see a way back for Leicester, even after Kelechi Iheanacho came on for the disappointing James Maddison.
Leicester’s back three looked uncertain without Jonny Evans playing. They lacked composure and struggled to cope with Chelsea’s pace, particularly with Werner turning the tables on Fofana after losing his duel with the young Frenchman at Wembley.
It was Fofana who blundered when Mount found Werner. The defender’s tackle was rash and although Mike Dean initially gave a free-kick, a VAR review showed that the foul took place inside the area. Chelsea looked safe after a typically cool penalty from Jorginho, sidefooting his effort low to Schmeichel’s left.
Perhaps they were too comfortable. With 14 minutes left Wilfried Ndidi robbed Kovacic and found Iheanacho, who finished well. It was nervy. Leicester pressed and Ayoze Pérez wasted a golden chance to equalise. Yet Chelsea hung on. - Guardian