Chelsea Fortunate as Match Ends Scoreless
A spirited Leicester City performance controlled a fatigued Chelsea side at the Bridge on Saturday. In the end, however, this Leicester dominance could not break through the Blues’ defence. Chelsea manager Antonio Conte made just one change from the side that drew at Arsenal 2-2 in the last round of fixtures – Antonio Rudiger replacing Andreas Christensen in defence. One could tell from the first whistle that between last weeks match and the midweek clash against Arsenal in the League Cup, Chelsea were not at their sharpest. Leicester took advantage of their tired opponents and laid siege on the counter for much of the first 60 minutes. However, Chelsea rode their luck and even came close to winning the match late after Leicester were reduced to 10 men. In the end, the Leicester dominance could not break through Chelsea’s defence
Leicester show their dominance in first half
Leicester had several half chances in the first 45 minutes, with Vardy and Okazaki unable to convert. For Chelsea, Fabregas and Kante had shots from distance that really never troubled Kasper Schmeicel. The Chelsea midfield and defense were sloppy at times and repeatedly gave the ball away to Mahrez and Vardy.
The best chance for either side fell to Leicester midfielder Onyinye Ndidi on a Riyad Mahrez corner. His header from just outside the six-yard box should have broke the deadlock, if it not were a strong hand from Thibaut Courtois. As time went on, the game grew choppy, with Mahrez guilty of simulation and Morata easily going over at almost every contact.
Unsurprisingly the best performers came from Leicester. Harry Maguire once again showed why he is one of the bargains of the summer, as he anchored the Leicester defense. His reading of the game, tackles, and passing helped gave Leicester the confidence keep pressing the defending champions.
Mahrez also put in a great shift on the right flank. He was creative, tricky and being an overall nuisance to Chelsea’s back-line. He was the source of most of Leicester’s chances and was a nightmare for Rudiger in the first half.
For Chelsea, Hazard maintained his good form, always looking dangerous whenever on the ball. He and Fabregas were the only creative sources for Chelsea. And as aforementioned, they showed signs of tiredness from their midweek exertions.
The match instantly changed in complexion after Leicester left-back Ben Chilwell earned two yellow cards in 5 minutes. Understandably, Leicester could not maintain their high press. With the 2016 Premier League winners down to 10 men, Chelsea grew in confidence. They knocked the ball in Leicester’s final third for the last half-hour, but still struggled to create any real chances. With Leicester outnumbered, but holding a firm defense, the match was destined for a 0-0 finish.
Conte’s Strange Subs and Selection Problems
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte made another strange substitution today, as he took off Hazard and Fabregas for Willian and Pedro. While injecting Willian or Pedro are not inherently bad decisions, one has to wonder why he chose to take off Chelsea’s two biggest creative players at the hour mark. Whereas, he left a misfiring Morata and an invisible Bakayoko on the pitch. He might be regretting that decision after Leicester were down a man.
The Italian now has to be careful with his selections, as Gary Cahill walked off with an apparent hamstring injury in the first half. While Christensen looks competent in defense, but that Chelsea back-line could easily become more fatigued as fixtures come fast.
Leicester were made to pay for not making their first half dominance count. The red card to Chilwell certainly changed the game. Chelsea have not played out their fourth successive draw in all competitions, three of those ending nil-nil. Leicester will be the happier of the two sides as Chelsea continue to chase second. Although, the Blues must be cautious, as they could slip to fourth on goal difference if Liverpool beat Manchester City on Sunday.
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