Leicester City fell to Chelsea by a score of 3-1 on Saturday at the King Power. The visitors took a 2-1 lead at the break with goals from Ben Chilwell and Kai Havertz on either side of a Patson Daka strike. Mateo Kovacic got a third for the Blues and the Foxes were reduced to ten men when Wout Faes saw a second yellow as City suffered their fifth defeat on the trot.
Manager Brendan Rodgers tossed his mystic spaghetti at the wall and the pasta told him to go three at the back for the first time in recent memory. The starting XI: Danny Ward, Ricardo Pereira, Daniel Amartey, Harry Souttar, Wout Faes, Timothy Castagne, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Nampalys Mendy, James Maddison (C), Kelechi Iheanacho, and Patson Daka.
The Foxes looked comfortable in the opening exchanges, more than holding their own against a Chelsea side that has struggled to score goals. It wasn’t so much “against the run of play” as “completely out of nowhere” when Chelsea took the lead on 12’. Following a corner, defender Kalidou Koulibaly retrieved the ball on the left wing. He sent in a hopeful, looping cross that found Ben Chillwell on the right. The defender struck his volley cleanly although without much venom. Ward, not expecting the shot, was completely wrong-footed and allowed the ball to sneak inside the near post.
City tried to find an immediate equaliser and, in all honesty, probably should have found it. Castagne won a free kick just outside the area when Wesley Fofana caught him in the face with a high boot. Madders whipped it across the face of the goal and found the unmarked Amartey two feet from the goal line. The Ghana man somehow glanced it wide, which was scarcely possible given my understanding of Euclidean geometry.
As the match approached the 25’ mark, both sides struck the woodwork in rapid succession. Amartey played Joao Felix onside behind the Leicester defence. The Portugal man took it in stride and chipped the ball over the stranded Ward only to see the ball come off the far post. At the other end, KDH lined up a shot from distance that took a wicked deflection off of Koulibaly. Kepa could only watch as it looped over his head but off the crossbar.
The visitors had the ball in the back of the net with ten minutes to play in the half. Mykhailo Mudryk found Ruben Loftus-Cheek on the right. His first touch saw him centre the ball for Joao Felix who tapped home from close range. It didn’t count, though, as for some reason the striker had strayed offside when there was absolutely no need for him to have done so.
Would Graham Potter’s side rue this error? Yes! Almost immediately, the Foxes penned the visitors into their own area. Ricardo did brilliantly to win the ball from Joao Felix and backheel it to Patson Daka. The Zambian had a lot of work to do, but he was game, driving forward and blasting past Kepa to level the score.
1-1 Leicester City.— (@TheEuropeanLad) March 11, 2023
WHAT A GOAL BY DAKA!!!!! pic.twitter.com/nRaIC9A5nP
I’ve missed this celebration, but not nearly as much as Maddison has (apparently).
The Foxes were desperately unlucky not to take the lead in the ensuing five minutes. Kepa made two saves in rapid succession from Madders and Iheanacho. Leicester then won a free kick just outside the “D”. Maddison took it, but couldn’t beat the wall. Replays showed that the reason he couldn’t beat the wall was that Fofana had, in the words of the commentators, “stuck out his elbow to knock it away,” but VAR didn’t see enough to give the penalty.
VAR was called into action again when Amartey cleared the ball and caught Kai Havertz in the chest with the follow-through. Once again, no punishment was given but, dear reader, let me assure you that punishment could have been given and there would have been no argument had it been given.
There may have been no punishment from the referee, but karma was not to be denied. Four minutes of extra time were added, but the referee Andre Marriner allowed play to go into the 51st minute to make up for the extended VAR review of the Amartey incident. This allowed Chelsea to get off one last attack which saw Havertz get behind the defence and tap the ball over Ward to give the Londoners the lead at the very end of the half.
Chelsea came out of the tunnel with fire in their eyes and won a corner in the opening minute of the second period. Chilwell’s cross was met by Fofana at the near post and his glancing effort was on target but Ward did very well to tip it over the bar. Would things calm down after this early warning?
No, no they would not. The referee was in Mark Clattenburg mode, letting a lot of things go, leading to a lot of meaty challenges requiring extended treatment. These went both ways, but it culminated with Enzo Fernandez standing on Madders’ foot long after the ball had gone and Marriner not even whistling for the foul, let alone producing a card.
On the hour, the Foxes produced a flurry of chances, but Chelsea held on thanks to a goalline clearance from a deflected effort. Rodgers, sensing blood, or perhaps his job slipping away, made a triple change. Amartey, Daka, and Mendy were withdrawn in favour of Boubakary Soumare, Harvey Barnes, and Tete.
Even if I live 1,000 years, I will never understand how City didn’t level the score on 70’. Kepa flapped at a Tete cross from the right, allowing Barnes to head it down to KDH in front of the net. Only five yards out with the ball on his favoured left foot, he somehow got it all wrong and rolled it tamely to Kepa with the entire team already halfway into their celebration.
On 75’, Jamie Vardy came on for Iheanacho. The striker was almost on the scoresheet immediately. Ricardo got behind the defence and crossed to the near post, but it was just slightly too high and the former Stocksbridge Park Steels man couldn’t get his head over it to nod it into the net.
The visitors doubled the advantage just moments later. Kai Havertz timed his run perfectly to get behind the defence. He crossed it for Mudryk, who nodded it back into the centre. Mateo Kovacic met it on the volley and blasted it directly over Ward. VAR took a look, but, as I already mention, Havertz got the timing right and the goal stood.
The Foxes were reduced to ten men on 85’ when Faes was late in challenging Carney Chukwuemeka. He was already on a yellow and Marriner had little choice but to display a second yellow and then the red. With the match out of reach, Rodgers withdrew Madders and introduced Jonny Evans.
There were seven minutes of time added on, but with a two-goal deficit and down a man, it was mostly an opportunity for travelling Chelsea supporters to get ¡olé!’s in. The Foxes were spent and the Blues were satisfied with the job done, which it most certainly was.
Was 3-1 a reasonable representation of the match? I don’t know. This was the Dean Winters match of all Dean Winters matches. With a lot of bad luck both ways, close VAR decisions, and a desperately poor referee, you could see Leicester winning this. You could also see a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Graham Potter’s men.
Pamela got to say this a lot today.
Of course, we’re well past the point where you even consider the quality of the performance. It’s all about the points, or, in this case, the lack thereof. We missed multiple sitters last week, and we missed a couple of them today in addition to hitting the post once. We simply cannot afford to be anything but clinical.
Leicester (2.10) 1-3 (1.45) Chelsea— The xG Philosophy (@xGPhilosophy) March 11, 2023
The defeat leaves us with 24 points from 26 matches. We’re 16th on the table, 1 point above the relegation zone and three points from the bottom of the table. We are off to London next Saturday to face Brentford. After the international break, we get back on a train to the capitol to face Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on April Fool’s Day.