High-flying Leicester too cute for Chelsea

Leicester 2 Chelsea 1: Claudio Ranieri may deny it, but of all of his 10 wins as Leicester City manager, this will have surely been one of the sweetest. 

High-flying Leicester too cute for Chelsea

11 years ago the Italian was sacked by Chelsea so Roman Abramovich could bring in JoseMourinho, the man he believed would guide the club to European glory.

Now Ranieri has Leicester dreaming of the same Champions League nights Abramovich craved all those years ago as they returned to the top of the table with this victory. Chelsea are 20 points behind them.

In the end, it was the usual duo who did the damage for Leicester. As double acts go, Mahrez and Vardy may not have the same ring as Morecambe and Wise, but they are bringing sunshine to the King Power. Even a late Loic Remy goal couldn’t dampen the mood.

The Foxes’ pair terrorised Chelsea’s defence all night and both found the net, meaning they have 26 league goals between them. The whole Chelsea team have managed 18.

“I don’t know if no-one can stop me but I need to do my best for the team, but the most important thing is the performance of the team, we did a great game and deserved the win,” said Mahrez. “I have a lot of confidence, when you keep scoring and making assists it’s normal to have confidence.”

Mourinho last night admitted the top four is beyond Chelsea. “Clearly, yes,” he said.

“When you have players, especially in crucial positions, knowing they are not at their level, it is very difficult.”

Given their recent form, it was unsurprising that Ranieri elected to name an unchanged team from the one that beat Swansea 3-0 in Leicester’s previous Premier League outing, while Mourinho followed suit by naming the same 11 that beat Porto 2-0.

As they have done all season, Leicester went full throttle from the off and Thibaut Courtois was called into action after just one minute. Riyad Mahrez danced his way through the Chelsea midfield but his shot from the edge of the area lacked power.

Mahrez was proving to be Leicester’s brightest spark and yet more trickery brought a free-kick on the edge of the box. Once again, though, the resulting effort was simple for Courtois to deal with.

But Leicester were showing no sign of letting up as they cranked up the pressure and the only concern for Ranieri was that the bright start had failed to bring an opening goal.

Chelsea were starting to come into the game too, however their progress was halted after half an hour as Eden Hazard limped off for Pedro, following a clash with Jamie Vardy.

And it got even worse for the Blues as minutes later Leicester finally got the breakthrough. His goalscoring run may have ended at Swansea last week but Vardy was back on the scoresheet to take his Premier League tally for the season to 15. The goal was sourced from the game’s best player as Mahrez cut in from the right to deliver a dangerous cross. Like a flash Vardy was onto it and he guided the ball home on the volley past a motionless Courtois.

That was the way it stayed until the half-time as Chelsea were given 15 minutes to catch their breath, but it proved to be little help as shortly after the interval Leicester doubled their advantage.

This time Mahrez went from provider to scorer in fine fashion. Marc Albrighton’s ball to the back post picked out the Algerian, who brought the ball down, teasing Azpilicueta before wrapping his effort into the top corner.

The King Power was rocking and Chelsea were on the ropes. John Terry was hooked after 53 minutes and on came Cesc Fabregas as the visitors searched for a way back.

It very nearly worked right away as Fabregas unlocked the Leicester defence with a lofted through-ball. Costa pounced, but a determined Kasper Schmeichel smothered the attempt.

Chelsea had the bit between their teeth and they were finally back in the game when substitute Loic Remy headed home Pedro’s cross with just over 10 minutes to go.

Now it was Leicester’s turn to be on the ropes and countless attacks followed as the champions threw everything they had at the hosts.

But they weathered the storm, showing exactly the kind of grit and determination that has got them to where they are now.

“We don’t want to get too carried away,” said Wes Morgan. “We just what to win and keep playing the way we are. We will see what happens.”

Leicester (4-4-2):

Schmeichel 6; Simpson 6, Huth 6, Morgan 7, Fuchs 7; Mahrez 9 (80 Inler 5), Kanté 7, Drinkwater 5 (15 King 6), Albrighton 7; Ulloa 6, Vardy 8 (87 Okazaki 5).

Subs not used:

Schwarzer, Wasilewski, Benalouane, Dyer.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1):

Courtois 5; Ivanovic 4, Zouma 5, Terry 4 (53 Fabregas 6), Azpilicueta 3; Ramires 4, Matic 6; Willian 6, Oscar 5 (64 Remy 7), Hazard 5 (30 Pedro 7); Diego Costa 5.

Subs not used:

Begovic, Cahill, Mikel, Kenedy.


Mark Clattenburg

Attendance: 32,054

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