Leicester City 0 Chelsea 3 – 20 November 2021
Report by Tish Krokosz
Prior to the match, the good news was that Lukaku was still unavailable for the visitors. The bad news was that Tielemans was in a similar position for City. Brendan Rodgers went for a defensive set-up by including Soumaré and Ndidi in midfield with Albrighton and Castagne acting as wing backs. But who would be creating the attacking moves from midfield?
As the names of the visitors were read out at the start, there was a marked difference in the home crowd’s reaction to Kanté, who was clapped, and Chilwell, who was booed loudly. This continued as the match progressed.
Unfortunately, the crowd’s dissatisfaction with the former City wing back only served to spur him on and in the first Chelsea attack of any note he ran behind the City defence to collect a long ball from a Jorginho free kick and could have scored the opener. Indeed, he should have scored, with only Schmeichel to beat, but the powerful left-footed shot hit the bar and sailed into the crowd.
Once again, City’s three-man defence was finding it difficult to find a way of passing the ball to its midfield and this dithering led to Chelsea pressure on the right wing and a soft corner being gifted to the visitors after thirteen minutes. Fans may remember the corresponding match two years ago when Rüdiger grabbed two goals from corners. With our record of trying to defend such set pieces there was much trepidation about this opportunity and he did not disappoint his fans. He stood in front of Schmeichel as Chilwell placed the ball and ran towards the powerfully taken corner unopposed and flicked a header to the back corner of the goal. This was almost a carbon copy of Gabriel’s goal when Arsenal were here last month. It has been said many times this season – why are City unable to defend at corners?
City’s forays into the Chelsea half were few and far between. However, the fans were on their feet when Lookman knocked in a cross from Albrighton past the diving Mendy. Unfortunately, there was one touch too many from the wing-back before the cross, and, in this time, Lookman had run into an obvious offside position, so the goal was disallowed. An equalizer at this point may have given City some confidence.
Instead, a few minutes later, Kanté picked up the ball on the right-hand side of the field and was allowed to run unopposed to the edge of the penalty area and unleashed a shot with his left foot. It flew past Schmeichel’s left hand giving the League leaders a comfortable two-goal cushion. Soumaré and Ndidi had been picked to form a defensive midfield barrier, yet neither was close to stopping Kanté in his approach. Indeed, his effort and ability throughout the match was greater than the sum of the two City players.
The two-goal cushion nearly became three a few minutes later when Schmeichel was guilty of an unforced error and passed the ball straight to an unmarked yellow Chelsea shirt. Fortunately for the keeper, his defence came to his aid and the danger was snuffed out. This was just one example of City’s inability to clear the ball from defence. The home crowd becomes very jittery when the ball is continuously played between the three defenders and the goalkeeper without there being any attempt to move forward decisively. What has happened to the sight of blue (City) shirts making fast runs forward behind the opposition’s defence line? Why is the build-up so slow?
The half ended with many boos from the crowd as the teams trudged to the dressing room. I thought this was for the seemingly one-sided approach from the referee, who constantly awarded kicks in Chelsea’s favour. However, he received his own boos as he left the pitch. Rodgers was aware that City had been totally dominated in that first half and made two changes at half-time. Barnes and Lookman had been ineffective on the wings and had been unable to feed the ball through to Vardy. It was hoped that Iheanacho would give the City talisman some support and that Maddison could be more creative.
There was a little more aggression and determination as a result of these changes, but even when City managed to get beyond the Chelsea defence, Mendy was dominant in goal. On the hour, he palmed away a powerful drive from Amartey who had picked up a loose ball outside the penalty area. Soon after, Vardy could have reduced the deficit with a header that went over the bar. These cameos were the only bright lights from City and most of the second half belonged to the Londoners.
It had started with a fine save by Schmeichel from a goal bound shot from Chilwell. There was a shot from Hudson-Odoi that went just over the crossbar. Then, in the seventieth minute, Chalobah moved forward from defence and sent a strong ball along the ground to Ziyech, who had come on for Mount. The Chelsea substitute took the ball past Söyüncü too easily and fed it to his fellow substitute, Pulisic, who was unmarked and able to slide the ball under the body of Schmeichel.
By now, the Chelsea fans were in full voice and their chants of being League leaders were ringing around the ground. Their team was able to scythe through the home midfield and defence at will and managed to put the ball into the City net three more times. Fortunately, the offside flag was raised on each occasion, but if these goals had been allowed, it would have shown the dominance that was obvious in this match.
City were relieved to hear the final whistle. They had been outclassed, out-run and out-played by the European champions. The visitors’ performance was of a very high standard and a 3-0 win was not at all flattering. City, on the other hand, need to revive their confidence. They looked lacklustre and several levels below their opponents. The upcoming match against Legia Warsaw will probably involve a different line-up and will be a test of their resolve. It will be a must win match. On current form that will seem like a massive undertaking. Are they up to it?
Leicester: Schmeichel, Amartey, Evans, Söyüncü, Albrighton, Ndidi, Soumaré (Dewsbury-Hall 74), Castagne, Lookman (Iheanacho H/T), Barnes (Maddison H/T), Vardy. Subs not used: Ward, Bertrand, Choudhury, Pérez, Vestergaard, Daka
Chelsea: Mendy, Chalobah, Silva, Rüdiger, James, Jorginho (Loftus-Cheek 77), Kanté, Chilwell, Mount (Ziyech 63), Havertz (Pulisic 63), Hudson-Odoi Subs not used: Arrizabalaga, Alonso, Christensen, Werner, Barkley, Azpilicueta
Referee: P. Tierney Attendance: 32,192
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