If Gary Lineker had been on the pitch instead of in the stands, his old team Leicester would surely have got something from this game.
But as the exiled Match of the Day presenter looked on from the directors’ box, Daniel Amartey, Harry Souttar and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall wasted golden chances and Leicester slithered to a fourth successive defeat that leaves them in dire trouble and had some fans calling for manager Brendan Rodgers to be sacked. The ground looked half-empty at full-time and those who stayed booed long and loud.
Former Leicester man Ben Chilwell put the visitors ahead early on before Amartey’s amazing miss and though Patson Daka levelled, Chelsea were ahead again in first-half stoppage time through Kai Havertz.
And after Souttar and Dewsbury-Hall had somehow failed to score, Mateo Kovacic made the game safe for Chelsea. To put the seal on it for Leicester, Wout Faes was sent off for a second booking late on as they ended the day above the bottom three by a single point.
Chelsea boss Graham Potter must be relieved to see another manager under the microscope after leading his team to their third win a week. Until now, Leicester chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha has shown the same patience with Rodgers that Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has with Potter. His nerve will be tested again in the days ahead.
Ben Chilwell gave Chelsea the lead early on in the first half with a brilliant volley
Kai Havertz restored their lead after Patson Daka had brought Leicester level with a decent strike
Gary Lineker was in attendance having been suspended from hosting Match of the Day
Daka’s strike brought some brief respite for Brendan Rodgers but not for too long
Leicester were determined to show more aggression after some limp displays but they were a little too fiery early on, with Ricardo Pereira extremely lucky not even to be booked for catching Joao Felix flush on the ankle.
Yet the home side were soon the ones feeling the pain. Chilwell’s corner was not properly cleared and when Kalidou Koulibaly hooked the ball to the far post, Chilwell as there to supply a fine volleyed finish.
LEICESTER (3-4-1-2): Ward 6.5; Amartey 4 (Tete 66, 6), Souttar 5.5, Faes 4.5; Pereira 6, Dewsbury-Hall 5.5, Mendy 7 (Soumare 66, 6), Castagne 6; Maddison 6.5 (Evans 90); Daka 6.5 (Barnes 66, 6) Iheanacho 6 (Vardy 76).
Booked: Faes, Pereira
Subs (not used): Iversen, Ndidi, Praet, Thomas.
CHELSEA (3-4-3): Kepa 6.5; Fofana 7, Koulibaly 8, Cucurella 6.5; Loftus-Cheek 8 (Chalobah 73, 6), Fernandez 7, Kovacic 7.5, Chilwell 7 (Pulisic 73, 6); Havertz 8, Mudryk 6, Joao Felix 6.5 (Gallagher 46, 7.5)
Booked: Fofana, Cucurella
Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Badiashile, Zakaria, Ziyech, Chukwuemeka, Madueke.
Referee: Andre Marriner 5
As a Leicester academy product, Chilwell was given a hot reception from the home crowd and enjoyed his celebration, sliding in front of the Foxes fans with his hands held to his ears.
Rodgers’ team should have responded immediately when Timothy Castagne won a free-kick from Wesley Fofana – who left Leicester last summer and was also booed – on the left. James Maddison’s delivery was perfect yet Daniel Amartey somehow headed wide from two yards.
Chelsea came close to doubling their lead in the 24th minute. Harry Souttar gave the ball away to Havertz, who found Felix with a brilliant crossfield pass. The Portuguese lifted the ball over the advancing Danny Ward, who was saved by his post.
Then it was Leicester’s turn to curse their luck as Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s effort clipped Koulibaly’s back and thumped the bar.
The mood threatened to turn toxic inside the ground when Felix steered home Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s low cross, prompting chants against Rodgers and others of ‘We are going down.’ Yet Felix had been comfortably offside so the goal was chalked off by VAR, and moments later Leicester were level.
Felix was robbed by Pereira close to his own box and the ball broke perfectly for Daka to lash it beyond Kepa Arrizabalaga from 20 yards.
Finally Leicester had something to shout about. Maddison and Kelechi Iheanacho tested Kepa from inside the box and the home side demanded a penalty when Maddison’s free-kick struck Fofana’s elbow.
Yet as has happened so often this season, Leicester were betrayed by their slack defending. Enzo Fernandez was given all the time he needed to loft a superb pass over the back line, where Havertz – played onside – delicately lifted it over Ward on the volley. It was five minutes into stoppage time and a real punch in the guts for Leicester.
It nearly got worse in the early moments of the second half with Ward forced to tip over Fofana’s header from close range after another Chilwell corner.
Chelsea’s £88million January signing Mykhailo Mudryk had a positive impact on the match
Brendan Rodgers now finds himself in a similar position to where he was before the World Cup
Mateo Kovacic’s goal wrapped up the win for Chelsea and ensured them of all three points
Just as Pereira was lucky to escape for his challenge on Felix, so Fernandez was somehow let off the hook for a challenge over the top of the ball on Maddison that left the Leicester playmaker in agony. Maddison hobbled on but was clearly not comfortable initially and was reluctant to challenge Conor Gallagher as the Chelsea substitute pushed forward.
Soon afterwards, Gallagher – who had replaced Felix at half-time – kept his team ahead by clearing of the line when Harry Souttar stabbed goalwards and at other end, Ward did superbly to keep out Havertz’s powerful header.
Dewsbury-Hall then wasted a glorious opportunity for a second equaliser. Kepa made a mess of Tete’s cross and the Brazilian’s fellow sub Harvey Barnes headed it across goal for Dewsbury-Hall. With the goal at his mercy, the midfielder managed to tread on the ball.
Rodgers gazed to the heavens and soon the sky fell in for Leicester. Havertz made another run down the right to cross for Mykhailo Mudryk, who nodded across for Mateo Kovacic to despatch the volley. VAR checked it but this time there was no respite for Leicester. The coming weeks will decide whether they will have any at the end of the season.