Leicester City stunned Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea at Stamford Bridge with Jamie Vardy’s second-half goal enough to lift the visitors back into the top half of the table.
A first-half which lacked intensity and golden opportunities came into life in the second half and after Jamie Vardy broke the deadlock on the 51st minute, his side expertly played the game out and came away with all three points and an early Christmas present.
All of Leicester’s hard work was almost for nothing though when Marcos Alonso slotted the ball past Kasper Schmeichel on the 91st minute only to find his effort bounce off the post and across the goal line out for a Leicester goal kick. This effort was in fact the fifth time that the Spaniard has rattled the woodwork this season and the Foxes had the frame of the goal to thank in the first half too when Eden Hazard’s powerful strike, which easily beat the Dane in goal, smashed against the bar.
The Foxes continue to be one of only three teams who have not lost a point in the final 10 minutes of games this season and the victory was their first at Stamford Bridge since September 2000. The win was also Leicester’s first win in 11 matches in London, a stat they will be happy to see the end of.
Patient Leicester punish fruitless Chelsea
The Foxes withstood heavy pressure throughout the 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge and took their chances when they came. Although Chelsea will look back slightly bewildered at their missed chances, Leicester deserve all the credit they can get after a gutsy and determined defensive display.
Chelsea became sloppy after conceding and Leicester did have chances to increase the gap, however when Antonio Rudiger somehow nodded wide from a corner before Alonso struck the post in added time, it was clearly not Chelsea’s day. The former blamed a ‘lack of mentality’ for his sides ‘stupid’ defeat to Leicester which almost certainly rules them out of the title race. The defeat was their first at Stamford Bridge since the 1st of April and was Leicester’s third win in 11 Premier League games.
It might not suit, but it did the job at Stamford Bridge
There has been rising issues surrounding Puel and his training ground sessions and relationships with the players in recent weeks and star man, Jamie Vardy, admitted during the week that Puel’s possession-based style of football does not get the best out of him. When asked does Puel’s style suit him, Vardy said ‘Does it? No, but is that down to me to adapt to it? Yes. And obviously, the only way I’m going to do that and keep progressing is working hard on the training field’.
Despite this, Saturday saw Vardy net his 95th goal for the club on what was his 250th appearance in a Leicester shirt. There were moments in the first half you could see the pure frustration in Leicester’s number nine as he struggled up top on his own. He was isolated throughout and has been constantly this season yet his patience paid off in the second half and he was never going to miss when James Maddison put it on a plate for him. The goal was also Vardy’s 13th in 15 appearances against the ‘top six’ and his strike was the first goal Chelsea have conceded at the Bridge in over nine hours of football.
Title race over for Chelsea?
Chelsea’s defeat leaves them 11 points off Liverpool at the summit of the table and the Blues now only sit in the top four on goal difference. Although Maurizio Sarri has continually brushed aside comments relating to Chelsea’s title chances, their impeccable start to the season, which saw them go the first 12 games unbeaten, resulted in the Blues being included in discussions regarding the title.
Yet since then, defeats to Tottenham, Wolves and now Leicester has dropped Chelsea down the table whilst their rivals have continually picked up results and drifted further away from them. Although you never know what the Premier League has around its corner it is highly doubtful that the title will come anywhere near South-West London this year.
Breathing space for Puel
After their exit in the Carabao Cup during the week, Puel received a lot of criticism and stick for his team selection and tactical decisions. Understandably, Puel was questioned with his starting XI against Manchester City as with a place in the semi-final at stake he chose to play a weakened side and as a result, they were knocked out. At Stamford Bridge, he elected to play a similar team in terms of formation and Hamza Choudhury’s imposing performance against the Citizens earned him his first start in the league this season.
On Saturday, the team returned to ‘normal’ and first-timers were recalled and the result was monumental and may give the Foxes a much-needed boost. Although Puel remains the favourite to be the next Premier League manager given the axe, the win at Chelsea will be a huge relief for the Frenchman. He seemed to be holding on to his job by a thread and the three points will give him much needed breathing space. Despite this, the Foxes face the Champions at the KP on Boxing Day followed by difficult tests vs Cardiff and Everton so Puel is not in the clear yet and still has to win over a majority of fans in Leicester.
Possession doesn’t necessarily win football games
Last weekend we saw Newcastle defeat a Huddersfield side with 74% possession, a Premier League record for a team having the highest possession and still losing the game. Saturday saw the record nearly broken again with Chelsea amassing an imposing 72% possession of the ball. Yet as we seen during Leicester’s Premier League title-winning season, they are a club who know how to win without possession of the ball.
Leicester were happy to sit off Chelsea and they allowed them to pass the ball between themselves in the middle of the park but the Blues possession was to no avail and not even Eden Hazard could find a way past a rugged Leicester defence.
Leicester host the Champions at the King Power whilst Chelsea have the task of traveling to a revitalised Watford who have two wins from two.