Leicester City looked comfortable seeing off Chelsea by a score of 2-0 at the King Power on Tuesday evening. First half strikes by Wilfrid Ndidi and James Maddison were more than enough to ensure that the squandered chances in the second period didn’t haunt the Foxes.
There would be no rest for the wicked as Brendan Rodgers named the same starting XI as he did for Saturday’s win against Southampton. Kasper Schmeichel got the nod in goal behind a back four of Timothy Castagne, Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, and James Justin. Youri Tielemans and Wilfrid Ndidi partnered in central midfield. The attacking threesome of Marc Albrighton, James Maddison, and Harvey Barnes slotted in behind lone striker Jamie Vardy.
The match started at a breathless pace, with the visitors looking to play balls over the top against the high line played by the Leicester defense. Tammy Abraham, in particular, looked an immediate threat to get on to the end of the route one balls. At the other end, the Foxes concentrated on patiently attacking the flanks, getting behind the defense and getting the balls into the center.
The Foxes made it a dream start on only six minutes. Neatly worked interplay between Albrighton and Castagne on the right saw the former Villa winger get to the line and pull the ball back for Barnes, who couldn’t get make meaningful contact. No worries as that just allowed the ball to run to Ndidi, who struck it first time with his left foot, cutting across the ball and burying it inside the side netting.
Wilfred Ndidi scores his first #PL goal of the season.— Soar Super Eagles (@SSE_NGA) January 19, 2021
What a stunning strike that was #LEICHE pic.twitter.com/Hk76uXTJQm
“His left foot is a wand!” - Someone, somewhere (probably)
City nearly made it two on the quarter hour mark. Castagne was again at the heart of the move, working inside and then finding Madders at the top of the “D.” He was always going to shoot and it was a beauty, beating Édouard Mendy by several yards but not quite beating the crossbar.
The Londoners started to get back into it and came close to scoring a couple of times in quick succession. Reece James skinned Barnes on the right and attempted to score from a Maddison-esque tight angle, but Schmeichel was able to push it over for a corner. The ball was whipped in to the near post and met by Thiago Silva, but Leicester’s Danish stopper punched it clear.
It really should have been two to the hosts just after the half hour. There were suspicions of offside as Vardy raced on to a ball over the top with just Mendy to beat. The former Stockbridge Park Steels man had ages to pick his target and attempted to clip it over Mendy who just stayed up long enough to get a finger to it and push it wide. Replays suggested that it wouldn’t have counted, but it was still a fine save by the Chelsea keeper.
Chelsea were nearly handed a lifeline when referee Andre Marriner pointed to the spot following Evans’ clumsy tackle on Christian Pulisic. VAR gave it a long look and determined that it was, in fact, a foul, but that it occurred outside of the box. Mason Mount fancied his chances to get the ball up and down, but just because I fancy I can play the intro to “Firth of Fifth” doesn’t mean I can do it.
Just moments later, Leicester’s second goal came courtesy of some shambolic defending by the Blues. Once again, it was Albrighton launching a long ball over the top for Vardy. The former England striker was poleaxed by Antonio Rüdiger and went down in a heap, which seemed to cause the defense to switch off. The ball ran to Maddison, who slid it past the stranded Mendy for one of the easier goals he’ll ever score. That did it for the half. Leicester were well on topped and good value for their lead.
The Foxes came out of the tunnel unchanged and should have scored almost from the opening whistle. The midfielders worked the ball from the left side to the right to find Albrighton all alone on the side of the area. He hit his cross first to the far post where Justin was completely unmarked. He somehow steered the header just outside the post when it might legitimately have been easier to score.
The Foxes had the ball in the back of the net in the 55th minute, but it was rightly ruled out for offside. A move down the left featuring Barnes and Justin saw the fullback bring the ball inside to Tielemans, and then Maddison, who toed the ball forward to Albrighton, who was a good yard offside, but his shot on the turn was genuine class.
City were absolutely rampant at this point. A Chelsea move broke down and the ball came to Vardy in the Chelsea half. His diagonal ball to Tielemans was almost a carbon-copy of what Tielemans did for Barnes against Southampton. The Belgium man took perhaps one touch too many and Mendy was able to cut the angle and save.
The East Midlands skies were pouring rain on the King Power as the pace of the match finally started to slow down. Chelsea were seeing a great deal of the ball but not doing a great deal with it. Frustration was starting to creep into the Blues’ play as the referee’s whistle was the most constant sound inside the nearly empty stadium.
Rodgers made a double-switch on 75’, withdrawing Albrighton and Madders to bring on Ayoze Perez and Ricardo Pereira, marking Ricardo’s first league action since Jack Grealish took his knee in the last match before the lockdown.
It was the other right back, however, who produced the next moment of magic. Castagne played an inch-perfect ball in the path of Vardy between two defenders. The striker cut inside to beat Rüdiger, but his touch was just too heavy and Mendy was able to collect it.
Chelsea looked to have pulled one back in the 86th when Pulisic won a free kick just outside the Leicester box. Hakim Ziyech took it and found fellow substitute Timo Werner, who got a touch to it and guided it past Schmeichel. The flag was up, and VAR confirmed that the former RB Leipzig man was just offside.
Rodgers took the opportunity to take off Vardy and bring on Iheanacho to see out the match. Three minutes of time were added on and it was the Foxes who continued to look the more-likely to next find the back of the net. Ziyech had shot on goal right at the death, but Schmeichel was more than equal to it. This proved the last serious action of the match as the Foxes saw out a deserved 2-0 win.
That was one of the best 90 minutes of football I’ve ever seen Leicester City play. The scoreline was flattering to the visitors who never looked like seriously threatening the Foxes. Once again, Leicester managed to create chance after chance and even put the ball in the back of the net when Vardy wasn’t 100%.
How good has Fofana been? Whatever Rodgers said to him yesterday it has certainly worked. #LCFC— Rob Tanner (@RobTannerLCFC) January 19, 2021
I didn’t get to mention their names very often, but Fofana and Evans were absolutely aces today. Sorry Cags, but be patient. You’ll be back.
This team is really good.
Tonight’s match brings us to the halfway mark of the season, and, with 38 points from 19 matches, the top of the table as well (we’re going to pretend “games in hand” don’t exist for a moment). The Foxes are unbeaten in seven straight in all competitions, and we’ll try to keep that streak alive on Sunday morning at Brentford in the FA Cup.