Chelsea 2-1 Leicester City
It was not always easy. In fact, the half-time goalless score could easily have read VAR 2-0 Timo Werner.
However, Chelsea refused to get frustrated and, in the end, were good value for three priceless Premier League points which took them above Leicester City into third place.
This race for the top four is even closer as we had into the final day of the league season.
Highlights of the game
Knowing they needed to win their final two league games to guarantee a top four finish, Chelsea made three changes from the FA Cup final with Edouard Mendy back in goal for the hosts and Ben Chilwell and Christian Pulisic replacing Marcos Alonso and Hakim Ziyech in the starting XI.
There were two switches for Leicester who handed berths to James Maddison and Marc Albrighton with goal-getter Kelechi Iheanacho on the bench and centre back Jonny Evans missing out with the heel injury he picked up at Wembley.
Whether sour grapes after losing the final, or a lack of respect for the cup competition, who knows, but boss Thomas Tuchel made his priorities clear before kick-off, insisting Chelsea were mentally strong enough to recover from their defeat.
Likewise, Leicester, had shown enough character in many games this season and are determined to qualify for Europe’s top competition after missing out on the final day last season.
Premier League highlights duly followed but, initially, they were frustrating ones for the hosts.
Twice in seven first half minutes, Werner saw strikes ruled out for offside: first a low shot, the second after he bundled home a corner but used his arm in the process.
Including the late equaliser that denied them in the FA Cup Final, that was three Chelsea goals disallowed in under 45 minutes of football against the Foxes.
Two minutes into the second half they put that right as Cesar Azpilicueta flicked on a Chilwell corner and Antonio Rudiger could not fail to head home from point blank range.
When Wesley Fofana tripped Werner just inside the box midway through the half and Jorginho nonchalantly despatched the resulting penalty, it seemed game over.
Brendan Rodgers’ side though have something special about them and reduced the arrears when Wilfred Ndidi dispossessed Mateo Kovacic and found sub Iheanacho who swept a first time finish into the bottom corner.
Suddenly, the tension inside Stamford Bridge – as it welcomed back fans for the first time in 2021 – was palpable.
Had Ayoze Perez netted in the final minute instead of blazing high following good work from Ricardo Pereira, it may have been different.
In fact, the importance of this game was clearly evident during an injury time scuffle which involved players and staff from both sides.
As proceedings calmed down, Chelsea held on, although will be concerned at losing both N’Golo Kante and Azpilicueta to injury.
To big cheers among the 8,000 home faithful, Mike Dean’s final whistle signalled a modicum of revenge for the home side and another twist in the Sbotop Premier League betting odds.
Would Leicester swap their FA Cup triumph for this result? Absolutely not.
Will this result prove the decisive factor in the top four chase? More than likely.
It’s all to play for going into Sunday’s final day.
Iheanacho has become the first player in Premier League history to score on all seven days of the week in the same season.
Only Frank Lampard in 2009-10 (10) has scored more penalties in a single Premier League season for Chelsea than Jorginho in 2020-21 (seven).
Each of Rudiger’s last three Premier League goals have all come against Leicester City, accounting for 50% of his total goal tally in the competition (3/6).
Until tonight, Chelsea had been winless in six Premier League fixtures against Leicester.
The Foxes have only won two of their past 30 away league games against Chelsea: 1-0 in December 2018 and 2-0 in September 2000.
Chelsea have not lost their final home league fixture in any of the previous 18 seasons since a 3-1 defeat against Aston Villa in 2002.
Leicester haven’t won their final away league game in any of the past seven seasons, losing the last five in a row.
There’s two matches remaining for Chelsea who go to Aston Villa on Sunday (May 23) in their final league match before the Champions League Final – which they reached by seeing off Real Madrid – against Manchester City on May 29.
FA Cup winners Leicester conclude their campaign at home to Spurs on Sunday.
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