Leicester City lost to ten-man Chelsea by a score of 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon. Conor Gallagher picked up two yellows inside the first half hour as neither side could find a breakthrough in the first half. Raheem Sterling bagged a brace to open the second half for Chelsea. Harvey Barnes got one back for the Foxes, but City couldn’t make their numerical advantage count as Leicester went their fourth straight match without a win.
We did finally see the away kit, though.
Manager Brendan Rodgers was without James Maddison and Wesley Fofana, while Wilfred Ndidi was only fit enough for a spot on the bench, so the starting XI had a looser, more improvisational feel to it: Danny Ward, Timothy Castagne, Daniel Amartey, Jonny Evans (C), James Justin, Youri Tielemans, Boubakary Soumare, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Dennis Praet, Harvey Barnes, Jamie Vardy. So, where there was no recognized defensive midfielder, there were three Belgians.
As expected, the hosts started the match with approximately 100% of the possession while the Foxes struggled to string even one pass together (which isn’t really a “string” but just let me have this one). Chelsea should have taken the lead on 6’ when Soumare gave the ball away in midfield. Raheem Sterling found Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the six-yard box, but Ward got down well to put it behind for a corner.
On the quarter hour, the Londoners thought they’d won a penalty. Referee Paul Tierney blew the whistle when Tielemans brought down Loftus-Cheek with a clumsy tackle that was enhanced by RLC flipping Youri over his shoulder. VAR was fine with the penalty call, but Loftus-Cheek was offside in the buildup, allowing the Foxes to escape unscathed.
There was absolutely nothing going Leicester’s way when suddenly, Chelsea decided to hand us a lifeline. Leicester broke from a Chelsea corner through Barnes. The winger knocked the ball past Conor Gallagher, who was already on a yellow. Being on a yellow, you’d think that Gallagher wouldn’t stick a leg out and trip Barnes, but sometimes people will surprise you. Tierney had no choice but to produce a second yellow and a red.
The Foxes appeared to have taken the lead on 35’ from a corner. Barnes held his ground against Edouard Mendy and rose highest to nod the ball against the post. It bounced across goal to be turned in by Soumare, but it was chalked off as Barnes was adjudged to have fouled Mendy by...not moving out of his way? I don’t know.
The rest of the half played out pretty much the same way; in spite of being down a man, Chelsea dominated possession. City had a little more of the ball and looked a little more dangerous, but still not quite as dangerous as their hosts. Vardy turned a half-volley just wide, and at the death, Castagne’s shot was well smothered by Mendy, so it was all level at the break.
Chelsea took only two minutes to take the lead after the break. Raheem Sterling picked up the ball at the edge of the Leicester area against Amartey. The Ghanian gave him enough space to try a speculative shot that probably wouldn’t have troubled Ward had it not taken a looping deflection that found the far corner of the net.
Rodgers made his first changes on the 55’ mark, withdrawing Praet and Soumare and introducing Kelechi Iheanacho and Ayoze Perez. This marked a period of, not pressure, but at least competitiveness for the Foxes as Barnes managed a couple of shots and the side looked like they might get around to scoring.
That all ended on 62’ when the 10-man team resumed bossing the 11-man team around and doubled their advantage. It was the simplest of goals: Reece James got in behind the defence on the right and fired in a low cross that eluded the entire City back line and reached Sterling for a tap-in at the far post.
Leicester got one back just 3 minutes later. Chelsea turned the ball over in their own half. Barnes played a 1-2 with Vardy, drove past Thiago Silva, and buried a shot at the near post that Mendy couldn’t get a hand to. Game on?
BREAKING: A Leicester City highlight! I’ve missed these.
Chelsea essentially closed up shop with 25 minutes to play and Leicester started to see chances come their way. Vardy had two you’d have expected him to bury, seeing Mendy save one and another hit the side netting with the keeper beaten. Ayoze blasted one off the underneath of the crossbar, just millimetres from levelling the score.
City won a late corner and Rodgers brought on Wilfred Ndidi for Tielemans that came to nothing. Four minutes were added on for the Foxes to find the equaliser. In the final seconds, Leicester won a final corner and Ward came forward, but the Foxes couldn’t find a deserved equaliser at the death.
That was...that was awful. You think having a man advantage for an hour would give the team confidence, but it wasn’t until Sterling’s second goal that we really started pressing. I shouldn’t have to say “You don’t need to give the other team a two-goal lead before exploiting your advantage,” but here we are. We were second best up to that point and Chelsea were well worth their lead*, but we had enough chances to have won the match, let alone level it, in the last half hour and just couldn’t finish them.
* Well worth their lead if you don’t consider this inexplicable call. #StillSalty
There were positives (Vardy actually had chances, Soumare wasn’t bad, Barnes doing Barnes things) but the negatives (Vardy missed those chances, KDH was invisible, we got beat by a 10-man team) just hit harder. The worst, for me, is that Fofana is probably feeling pretty #$%#^ smug right now.
The defeat leaves us on 1 point from 4 matches. We’re 19th on the table pending West Ham’s match tomorrow. We host Manchester United on Thursday and then it’s off to the coast to face Brighton and Hove Albion next Sunday.