Leicester City left north London with a well-deserved point despite going down to 10 men when Ben Chilwell saw a second yellow on 68 minutes. The Foxes earned their second clean sheet on the trot and were seldom threatened by the heavy-legged Blues, who were playing less than 72 hours after their League Cup tie against Arsenal.
Manage Claude Puel started a makeshift back line of Daniel Amartey, Aleksandar Dragovic, Harry Maguire and Chilwell in front of Kasper Schmeichel in goal. Wilfred Ndidi partnered with Matty James in the central midfield, with Marc Albrighton and Riyad Mahrez on the wings. Shinji Okazaki played up front behind the returning Jamie Vardy.
After an early Chelsea foray down the City right, the Foxes started to find their legs and were soon dominating both possession and chances. The first chance fell to Okazaki, who spooned over after good work by Chilwell on the left. The young left back was again the provider as he set up a Vardy half-chance that the former Fleetwood man couldn’t quite flick on target.
The next couple of minutes resulted in four shots by the visitors and ended with Leicester’s best chance of the half. A Mahrez cross evaded the entire defense and fell to man-of-the-match Ndidi, whose stooping header looked for all the world to be going into the net. Courtois made a nice diving save, and the chance was gone.
The Algerian wizard was back to his menacing best, gliding past defenders and splitting the Chelsea defense with cut backs, but City’s clinical finishing deserted them. Chance after chance went begging as the visitors attempted 14 first-half shots but failed to find the back of the next.
If anything, the second half started even brighter for Leicester. Chelsea struggled to get the ball out of their own half as James and Ndidi were absolutely dictating everything the centre of the park. On 57’, another great chance resulted in a Mahrez shot looping off Andreas Christiansen and just wide of the goal with Courtois beaten.
Recognizing that his side were losing their grip on the game, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte brought on Pedro and Willian for the clearly tired Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas. The change livened up the flagging Blues and just six minutes later, Chilwell fouled Willian and received a surprising yellow card in the process. The match turned after another five minutes when Chilwell caught Victor Moses and received a second yellow. In real time, I thought it was a 50-50 ball. The television commentators described the dismissal as “harsh,” a judgement echoed by Puel after the match.
Marc Albrighton asked the ref why Chilwell was booked the first time when Chelsea players weren’t for similar tackles. Jones said it was because of where on the pitch the tackles happened. Now, I am no ref but I am pretty certain that is wrong. #LCFC— Rob Tanner (@RobTannerMerc) January 13, 2018
It was the home side’s turn to apply some pressure. The Foxes brought on Christian Fuchs to replace Okazaki and try to see out the match in a 4-4-1. Chelsea saw a great deal of the ball, but seldom troubled the City defense or Schmeichel. Vicente Iborra came on to replace James, who was making his first start since the last Chelsea match at the King Power. The Spaniard’s first contribution was to give away a free kick just outside the “D.” Marcos Alonso’s shot was on target, but the former Leeds stopper saw it all the way and pushed it aside.
The Blues tried to turn the screw, but were nearly made to regret their inability to make their numerical advantage count when Demarai Gray, on for Vardy, broke down the left and beat his man to the line. He failed to find the waiting Mahrez on the penalty spot, and the Foxes were forced to settle for the draw.
Chelsea were clearly not at their best, having played on Wednesday ahead of a Saturday match. They were almost shockingly poor and second-best to City for long stretches of play. Full credit to Leicester, who entered the match with intent and were unfortunate not to score at least a couple of goals in the first hour of the match. The back four, consisting of zero players who were in the side at the end of the last season, kept the Blues’ attack at bay and the City midfield controlled the match.
The draw leaves the Foxes 8th on the table, three points behind Burnley in 7th and four points ahead of Everton in 9th. City face Fleetwood Town at home on Tuesday in a replay of their FA Cup tie. The next league match is at home to Watford next Saturday.