Leicester City and Chelsea shared the honors in an exciting 2-2 draw at the King Power on Saturday morning. Chelsea got two second-half set-piece goals from Antonio Rudiger on either side of Leicester strikes from Harvey Barnes and Ben Chilwell. The Foxes had two great opportunities to re-take the lead late but in the end but were unable to find the breakthrough to put the Blues to the sword.
Manager Brendan Rodgers made a couple of changes to the XI that lost to Aston Villa on Tuesday, one due to injury and one marking a return from injury. Kasper Schmeicehl started between the sticks behind a back four of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Ben Chilwell. Youri Tielemans and James Maddison flanked defensive midfielder Hamza Choudhury as Wilfred Ndidi’s knee was giving him some difficulty. Up front, Jamie Vardy returned to the starting lineup alongside Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes.
The visitors got the better of the early exchanges, winning a free kick deep in the Leicester half that led to a series of corners but no shots. At the other end, the Foxes weren’t having much luck in possession, but an incessant press was making things uncomfortable for the Blues. It all made for a great deal of movement without either keeper having to get involved.
Our old friend VAR made an appearance on 20 minutes. Tammy Abraham got behind the home defense with Söyüncü trying to make up ground. The Chelsea striker overran the ball and both players tried to reverse their momentum and went to ground on what appeared to be a very slippery pitch. Abraham screamed for a penalty as referee Lee Mason looked on in bemused silence. VAR gave it a look and confirmed the decision.
At the other end, the Foxes were starting to find a little more joy with their press. Ayoze won the ball back deep in the Chelsea area and chested the ball down to Vardy. A sharper Vardy would have buried it, but his low shot was a little too close to Wily Caballero who made a fine save with his legs. A little later, Tielemans released Chilwell into an absurd amount of space on the left. The England man pulled it back for Barnes, whose first-time effort was well over the bar.
The hosts survived a late flurry of pressure from the Blues. A Chilwell turnover let the visitors in, but a succession of blocks from Evans, Evans, and (checks notes) Evans kept the visitors at bay. Schmeichel’s lone contribution of the half was to tip over a Pedro chip that was going to go over anyway. Leicester roared back at pace, with Vardy getting into the Chelsea area, but his ball to Ayoze was a little behind the Spaniard. He recovered and tried to pick out Barnes at the back post, but N’Golo Kante was wise to it and put it behind for a corner. Maddison’s ball found Choudhury’s leap, but the header was both just wide and the last touch of the half.
Chelsea took the lead only a minute in the second half before the NBC cameras had even found the range. Hamza Choudhury gave away a corner from an unfortunate deflection. Antonio Rudiger out-jumped the Leicester defense at the far post and glanced the ball into the net...apparently. I say “apparently” because technical issues prevented the anyone from actually seeing it.
Going down a goal seemed to energize the Foxes as they poured forward in numbers and got a corner out of it, but the momentum couldn’t be sustained. Chelsea’s press was giving Leicester some difficulty as misplaced back-passes caused some nervy moments. Finally, Madders dropped deep to help relieve the pressure and as soon as he did, Leicester were level.
Maddison got the attack going with a slick outlet down the left. Leicester had numbers in the box as Barnes arrived from the edge of the area. The former West Bromwich Albion loanee decided to cut in and shoot when passing might have been the better option. “Might” because Chelsea got a foot to it, but the wicked deflection took the ball over Caballero to settle into the back of the net.
The Foxes were on top just minutes later. Chilwell found acres of space again on the left, but his cross, nominally towards the back post, missed everyone. Ricardo eventually chased it down, beating Caballero to it on the edge of the area. He tapped it back to Tielemans, who sent a square ball across the back half of the penalty area. It seemed to roll for ages before Chilwell met it unopposed and smashed into the back of the net for his second goal of the season.
The lead proved to be as short-lived as the deficit. Ricardo gave up a soft free kick on the Leicester right. Mason Mount swung the ball into the mixer and Rudiger was able to get over Chilwell and direct the ball into the net from a full 14 yards out. Full credit to the Chelsea defender for the direction he got on the ball, but Schmeichel will be disappointed to have conceded from a header that far out.
The lead ought to have been restored just moments later. Leicester won a free kick that was deflected out for a corner. Evans could not conceivably have had more room when he met the ball eight yards from the net and absolutely no one near him, but he contrived to sent it wide when it would have been easier to score.
Somehow, the Foxes managed to miss an even better chance just two minutes later. A through ball found Vardy on the right. He curled in a low cross that Barnes met in full stride. Caballero was off his line, so he just needed to direct it on target. He did not direct it on target. Instead, he dragged it just wide of the far post. That would be Vardy’s last contribution, as Rodgers withdrew him and Tielemans in favor of Kelechi Iheancho and Dennis Praet.
Neither side were able to carve out any serious chances in the final ten minutes and six minutes of injury time. Leicester had a late penalty shout when Barnes’ cross struck Rudiger’s trailing arm, but it would have been harsh for that to have been given.
How is that not a penalty?— Jason Bourne (@JasonBourne1986) February 1, 2020
Just recycling Tuesday’s tweets now, Jason? In this case, I don’t think it’s given even if we’re wearing red and managed by a gloriously hairplugged German.
Leicester will feel they should have won this, in no small part because they should have, but Chelsea were better in the first half than the statistics will suggest and a draw is not a terribly unfair result for this match. Leicester were punished for poor defending on two set pieces they never should have given away in the first place but showed great <insert Brendan Rodgers cliche quote here...”character”?> to secure a point from the match.
xG map for Leicester - Chelsea— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) February 1, 2020
weird game where both teams struggled to fashion chances out of dangerous possession but also somehow scored multiple goals pic.twitter.com/iTcOGckndi
Kasper’s save percentage isn’t looking very good of late...
Barnes’ performance was frustrating because he worked hard, got a goal, but made some bad decisions and missed a sitter to win it. It was still a positive day at the office for him, but he’s raised the bar by which he’ll be judged in recent weeks. Choudhury was solid as the holding midfielder, Evans was a rock in defense, and let’s hear it for Tielemans who, in spite of being relatively quiet today, assisted on both goals.
The draw keeps the Foxes 3rd on the table with 49 points from 25 matches. On the off chance you’re interested in such things, we remain 8 points ahead of 4th place Chelsea. Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, and Wolverhampton are all 15 points in our wake with a game in hand for that final Champions League slot. Speaking of Wolves, we travel to Molineaux to face them on Valentine’s Day after the “winter break”. After that, we host Manchester City on the 22nd.