Chelsea ease past champions Leicester with 3-0 away win
Chelsea made light work of Premier League champions Leicester City and go seven points clear at the top of the Premier League table with a 3-0 win at the King Power Stadium.
Two goals by Macros Alonso six minutes inside each half, and one from Pedro in the 71st minute, wrapped things up on an impressive night for the visitors in Leicester, who went into the match 28 points ahead of their hosts when only 12 months ago they were 17 behind them.
How times have changed, with this win giving Chelsea 52 points after 21 matches, two more points than their final total for the ENTIRE season last year, and signalling that Tottenham was indeed a mere hiccup, and furthermore proving life can go on after Diego Costa.
This equivalent fixture last season produced a highly traumatic end for Jose Mourinho’s second spell in charge of the Blues, with a 2-1 loss, and subsequent rant about players ‘betraying’ his methods, enough to send the Portuguese to an £8 million compensation package.
12 months on, the start of this half, mercifully, went better for Conte’s men.
Musa did send early warning signals to the visitors, with the hosts matching Chelsea’s three at the back, and Musa nearly got straight in twice with lax defending by Azpilicueta and Luiz.
But the visitors’ chances at the other end were more promising, and indeed led to the first goal within six minutes.
Azpilicueta sent in a cross from the right-wing and it looked like Pedro was impeded by Huth in his quest to get to the ball first, but it was no matter as Hazard, playing as the false nine with Costa dropped for a mid-week training fracas with a fitness coach, laying on a peach of a ball to Alonso. The Spaniard still had some work to do but finished with great aplomb with his right foot, curling beautifully past Schmeichel and an onrushing Albrighton.
It was the 26-year-old’s second Chelsea goal, his first being against Everton who also tried to play three at the back, and Leicester, who were aiming to keep three consecutive clean sheets for the first time in this season’s Premier League, saw their hopes dashed within six minutes.
Would Ranieri have to tinker already? It certainly was a very comfortable first quarter of an hour for Chelsea but Leicester started to show their true colours. With Tottenham beating Chelsea via two identical crosses that led to the two identical Alli headers, Albrighton began sending some delicious crosses in, the first just evading Vardy and the second being met by Chiwell who diverted the ball just wide. Had that been a real target-man in Slimani, the outcome might have been very different.
Then, Ndidi saw his long-range effort fly just wide after Matic was dispossessed when trying to clear out of his own penalty box, but more chances kept coming the hosts’ way, especially when there was a near-suicidal mix-up between Luiz and Courtois when neither took charge of a Vardy cross. Had Luiz got a touch it might have been an own goal, but the Brazilian gambled by leaving it and Courtois thankfully reacted well.
Leicester nearly returned the favour at the other end when miscommunication between Schmeichel and Fuchs saw angry exchanges between the two, but no second goal conceded.
The last chance of the first half went to Chelsea from a set-piece. Pedro countered and, with nowhere to go, smartly bought the foul from Andre Marriner, and whilst Luiz is know for his style of free-kick taking, the Brazilian opted to play it short to Hazard, who himself fed Pedro, but the Spaniard’s shot was wide. Had it gone it, it would have been a picture-book goal.
The second goal did go in for Chelsea early in the second half though. Fuchs gave away a needless free-kick with Willian going nowhere in the corner, and the ball swung in broke to Alonso who had time to settle himself and rifle home, via a deflection off Morgan, a second. He is only the third Chelsea defender to score a brace in the Premier League, joining John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic.
Hazard was struggling to make a real impact on the game from a central role without a focal man in Costa, but was still proving to be a handful, running head down at Wes Morgan. The Belgian typically would cut inside but opted to go round Morgan’s stronger side and failed.
Cahill then came up against the same wall in Morgan when, from a corner, he tried an outrageous over-head kick that was destined for the back post, whilst Alonso nearly secured his hat-trick when he controlled beautifully a deep Moses cross and nearly buried the ball into the far post.
The third was not too long a wait away and was another excellent goal to wait for. Moses passed to Pedro who showcased an extraordinary piece of skill with a no-look back-heel pass to Willian, and the Brazilian returned the favour by finding Pedro again to head home with Schmeichel off his line.
Fabregas, Batshuayi and Loftus-Cheek all entered the fray, but the points were well sealed by then and Hull await next week.
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Man of the Match
MARCOS ALONSO: The man has come about and done his work quietly since his summer arrival, but where defensive solidity may not make the headlines, grabbing a brace at the other end will. Alonso’s position was thought to be in threat, with the whole point of recalling Nathan Ake back from Bournemouth so that more pressure could be put on the left wing-back berth, but more performances like this and Alonso, and Chelsea, will have nothing to worry about. 8/10
Conte was pleased: “A good performance because it’s not easy to come here, play the champions and win in this way. I’m pleased with all my players, we showed great spirit, all the players tried to help each other with the ball and without the ball. After the defeat to Spurs we started in the right way.” On the Costa fall-out rumours: “Diego stopped his training Tuesday because he felt a pain in his back. I don’t know anything about [an offer from China], no.”
Ranieri was refusing to be downbeat: “Today we made a good performance but we lost, and that is football. If you take out the first two goals we played at same level as them. If we had not conceded those goals it would have been another match.”