Leicester scrape draw at Chelsea to win Premier League by 10 points
Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri returned to Stamford Bridge for first time
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri walks out to a guard of honour from the Chelsea staff before the game. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
Chelsea 1 Leicester City 1
Roman Abramovich had been waiting for Claudio Ranieri on Leicester City’s arrival at this stadium, the oligarch seeking out the first manager he had sacked as Chelsea’s owner to offer an embrace and warm congratulations on a job well done. The Italian has been tickled by the adulation pouring at him from all angles these days and his team completed a season of unprecedented success here with an equaliser worthy of champions.
It was Danny Drinkwater who drew them level eight minutes from time, dispatching a shot from 30 yards which dipped across a diving Thibaut Courtois and into the corner of the net, with few among Chelsea’s fans begrudging the visitors their reward. Ranieri and his team had been applauded on to the pitch by home supporters and players alike, Guus Hiddink and his players forming their guard of honour for the side who had claimed their title with the injured Diego Costa and John Mikel Obi even taking their places in the lineup in civvies. Also present was John Terry but, where the locals were eager to welcome Ranieri back, they feared this might be a farewell to the captain.
Terry, suspended here, is still contemplating the one-year contract extension offered to him in midweek with his delay in signing an indication there is an awkward choice to make. Chinese clubs would offer him more money and longer terms. The fear is his appearance at Sunderland, his 703rd for the club, may prove to have been his last with those in the Shed end duly unveiling a “John Terry, proper Chels” banner before kick-off, and then raising No26 posters in the 26th minute while chorusing the defender’s name. The 35-year-old, watching from the seats behind the home dug-out, eventually stood, applauded and thumped the badge on his training top. These are changing times.
In truth, given everything occurring around the fixture amid a largely celebratory atmosphere – such a contrast from the poison whipped up for Tottenham Hotspur’s critical visit in Chelsea’s previous home game – the football felt rather incidental. The relaxed tempo gave the contest a rather friendly feel at times, for all that Kasper Schmeichel had to excel to preserve parity up to the interval. His save from Willian, diving to his left to push the Brazilian’s attempt away, summed up his form though there were blocks, too, to be mustered to deny Cesc Fàbregas, Bertrand Traoré, Baba Rahman and Pedro.
Not that Chelsea dominated. The champions were just as menacing when exploiting indecision across the hosts’ back-line, Jamie Vardy and Andy King prospering in the space behind Fàbregas and Nemanja Matic. The England forward had burst through on to Riyad Mahrez’s clipped pass midway through the opening half, reaching the loose ball ahead of the advancing Thibaut Courtois only to see his attempt, lifted over the goalkeeper, drift wide.
Shinji Okazaki and Jeffrey Schlupp added extra impetus on their introduction at the interval, the pair combining only for Courtois to claim the Japanese forward’s back-heel. As it was, Schlupp’s impact was felt rather more at the other end. Eden Hazard’s dribble and Wes Morgan’s block on Tammy Abraham’s attempt saw the ball break free to Matic on the edge of the area. The Serb feigned to shoot, luring Schlupp to ground as he sought to block, only for Matic to take a touch round the player and induce the contact. Fàbregas converted from the spot, with Terry on his feet behind the dug-outs in appreciation.
Yet this is a team who have mustered only five league wins at home, in a ground they recently considered such a fortress, and Drinkwater’s leveller felt apt. Chelsea have been pining for the end of the season for some time. Their players massed in the tunnel post-match ready for their lap of appreciation with those in the stands bellowing Terry’s name. He followed the player of the year, Willian, back out into the sunshine. A summer of upheaval awaits.