LEICESTER CITY 0 CHELSEA 1
Match Report by Paul Weston
I did not know how much a part sport, and football in particular, plays in my life and my diary. You do not realise it until it is not there anymore. After weeks of being deprived of football during lockdown, apart from the Bundesliga, I had been longing to see the Foxes in action again as we aimed for the Champions League spot and progress in the FA Cup.
I coped with the disappointment of throwing away three points against Watford and was rather secretly pleased that Nigel Pearson’s team earned a well deserved point. I put City’s failings down to rustiness after the lay-off. However, after the Brighton snore draw I became much more concerned. What had happened to our style of play, pressing and fast inter-passing? We had become slow, ponderous and predictable.
It was therefore with some trepidation on my part beforehand that the FA Cup tie with Chelsea on Sunday took place. Although City were playing at the King Power, the absence of a crowd negated any advantage. Chelsea arrived on the back of a fine victory against Manchester City which handed the Premiership title to Liverpool- worthy winners. City however were struggling for form with too many players off their game.
Rodgers made several changes from the Brighton game. Maddison was not in the squad due to a hip injury. Perez, Tielemans, Praet and Barnes came in. At least Rodgers has abandoned his two holding midfielder formation which was a failed experiment against Brighton. Mike Dean was the referee with his new lockdown beard giving him a fearsome image.
City began the match on a very positive note against a strangely hesitant Chelsea defence with N’Didi playing well in front of defence. The Perez/Vardy/Barnes link up play was good but on several occasions Barnes mis-controlled when in a good position to shoot. Tielemans had a shot from distance well saved by Cabellero. Evans missed a header from a great position.
In the middle of this action Soyuncu earned a booking from Mike Dean and, in a rare Chelsea attack, Perisic cut in from the right and Schmeichel made a smart save. City continued to look lively and Barnes and Vardy shot over and wide without bothering the goalie. The first half ended 0-0 although City should have scored at least two goals from the chances created. One felt that City would rue these misses and that Chelsea would up their game in the second half.
Lampard showed his displeasure with his team’s first half performance by making three substitutes at the beginning of the second half. Chelsea were much more energised and closed down City’s passing out of defence. From a good move Abraham scored but was clearly offside but the omens were not looking good.
Although Rodgers brought on Choudhury and Albrighton for Praet and Perez Chelsea continued to dominate the game and scored in the 63rd minute when Berkeley, one of the half-time substitutes, scored from a Willian cross that should have been cut out. Gray came on for a disappointing Barnes but made little impact.
City improved slightly after the second drinks break and Soyuncu was unlucky with a header that glanced off a Chelsea defender from an Albrighton cross. City tried to press forward and left gaps at the gap. Schmeichel made an amazing save from Berkeley when Chelsea were 4 against 2 close to the end of the match. Right at the close Ndidi went close with shot which swerved just wide. And so City lost the match 0-1 and Chelsea meet Manchester United in the next round of the FA Cup. In truth City never looked like winning the game from early on in the second half.
So what have we learned from this performance and other matches since the re-start? Certainly City started at a faster pace in this game than recent matches but the final ball and control were poor. Ricardo is badly missed for his marauding runs which galvanise the team. Justin is improving all the time but understandably is more reticent in attack.
The defence looks reasonably solid and Schmeichel has made some good saves that we have grown to expect. Ndidi has played reasonably well but no other midfield players (including Maddison) and wing players have been more than 6 out of 10 throughout a whole match. Vardy and Iheanacho have both struggled, starved of good chances and strangely lacking in control and confidence.
Rodgers needs to galvanise the team into a win against Everton which is desperately needed otherwise I can see this season slipping away and the chasing pack snatching the Champions League place away from us. Come on you Foxes- you can do much better than this!
Leicester: Schmeichel, Justin, Evans, Söyüncü, Chilwell Ndidi, Pérez (Albrighton 57), Praet (Choudhury 57), Tielemans. Barnes (Gray 76) Vardy
Chelsea: Caballero, James (Azpilicueta 45), Rüdiger, Zouma, Emerson, Mount (Barkley 45), Kanté, Gilmour (Kovacic 45), Willian (Pedro 78), Abraham, Pulisic (Loftus-Cheek 72)
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation