It was a coming together of two teams from very different backgrounds on Wednesday in Leicester. Chelsea entered the game just 2 victories away from clinching the title. Leicester had hopes to continue their “great escape” from the relegation zone, having spent 140 days at the bottom of the Premier League table. Leicester hadn’t beaten Chelsea in 40 years. And this unbeaten run would continue at King Power Stadium.
The Blues lined up slightly differently than their normal 11. Cech got the nod in goal, with Courtois picking up a slight hip injury. The back four remained unchanged along with Chelsea’s midfield pivot. Ramires got the start on the right wing, and Willian in the middle of the park, following Oscar’s injury at the weekend. Hazard took up his normal spot on the left and Drogba got the nod up top, with Remy and Costa being unable to recover from their injuries. The major question would be could Drogba last the full 90 minutes.
In the first ten minutes of the game, neither team really tested each other. The possession was pretty much split with maybe Chelsea having a slight lead in this category. However, Leicester put heavy pressure on Chelsea early on, not allowing the Blues much time on the ball. Chelsea strung several passes together early on during the first half but no real opportunities. The major talking point was that two Leicester players came off early on, Robert Huth, and Andy King. This will be worrisome for Nigel Pearson, as they play Newcastle this weekend, and it is considered somewhat of a must win game.
In the stoppage time, Leicester managed to beat Petr Cech, when Ulloa played the ball to Vardy, who slid it across to Albrighton. Azpilicueta slipped and Leicester’s Albrighton was clean through, slotted it home, and the Tigers took the lead.
The second half started with no changes to the team. Except Jose Mourinho’s halftime speech. I don’t know what he said to the Blues at halftime, but they walked out of the tunnel and played like Champions. Drogba would answer all of his critics by scoring an early goal, leveling the score at one. Ivanovic cut back an endline pass, allowing the Ivorian to strike it home. He almost scored another right after, but skyed it over the goal. The Blues threatened the Tiger’s goal a few minutes later, Willian playing a sublime pass to Fabregas, whose foot got caught behind him, and he couldn’t make contact.
Chelsea would find their winner just before the 80’ minute off of a corner kick. Cahill headed the ball towards goal, and Leicester’s goalkeeper made a great save. However, the ball landed straight to Terry, who tapped it home, and Chelsea took an important commanding lead.
Chelsea would double their lead a few minutes later with a sublime goal from Ramires. Cesc cut it back for Ramires and the Brazilian took a stunning shot that went into the upper corner of the Tiger’s goal. Mourinho immediately told Kurt Zouma to warm up, and the Frenchman would come on in the 83′ minute for Willian. He would also bring on Cuadrado for Hazard and Mikel for Fabregas in the closing stages of the game.
Chelsea closed out the game effectively and efficiently, moving within two points of the title. The biggest talking point after the match should revolve around Chelsea’s adjustments at halftime. Three of the players that took the most stick from pundits before half, Drogba, Willian, and Ramires, all turned in Man of the Match performances in the second half. For me, the MOTM had to be Willian, who was exceptional in dictating Chelsea’s attack.
Chelsea will look to wrap up the league this weekend against Crystal Palace. Should they be successful in this endeavor, it’ll allow Jose to get some of the younger guys in a few games to slowly integrate them into the first team for next season. As “Boring Boring Chelsea” was cheered at the end of the game, the Blues moved three points closer to a not-so-boring title parade.
Contribution from Tyler Strauss