Leicester City 2-2 Chelsea
What a contest this was.
Third versus fourth in the Premier League, what I had dubbed beforehand as the “best of the rest” clash.
You’d have been forgiven for taking me to trading standards at the break after such a low-key first half.
But then it opened up as both sides showed their character and vulnerability in a four-goal thriller.
The upshot is that Leicester remain comfortably in third place, eight points clear of the west Londoners, although Brendan Rodgers has still not beaten the Blues as a manager in 14 attempts.
Highlights of the game
Chelsea fans have expressed their frustration at a lack of movement in the January transfer market before kick-off. The club saw a late move for Napoli forward Dries Mertens fail and also missed out on Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani.
The home side was desperate to bounce back from a last-gasp League Cup semi-final defeat in midweek, but in truth, there were few Premier League 2020 highlights in an uneventful first half.
That was to change quickly after the restart. Very quickly.
Just 57 seconds of the second half had elapsed when centre-back Antonio Rudiger headed Chelsea in front from Mason Mount’s corner.
Rodgers’ team levelled eight minutes later when Harvey Barnes fired home, his effort deflecting off young defender Reece James into the top-right corner.
The home fans were delighted when, 10 minutes later, Ben Chilwell swept a Youri Tielemans cross into the bottom left past Willy Caballero.
But Germany international Rudiger’s second headed goal of the day – from another pinpoint Mount delivery – ensured Frank Lampard’s side claimed a point.
Leicester could have won it but Jonny Evans headed wide before Barnes missed a golden chance with 11 minutes left.
Vardy’s cross found the winger unmarked with just Willy Caballero to beat but he could only roll the ball inches wide of the post.
Lampard had provided a talking point before kick-off when he dropped goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, their world-record signing, in favour of veteran Caballero.
At 38, the Argentine is heading towards the twilight of his career, but he made a superb save early on to deny Jamie Vardy and, while he could be partly blamed for the Foxes’ second goal, he was genuinely solid.
Honours even at the King Power Stadium, and with sides below them failing to convince, the SBOTOP Premier League 2020 predictions suggest both these teams will be competing in the Champions League next term.
This was Rudiger’s 100th appearance for Chelsea. He joined them from Roma in the summer of 2017.
This was the sixth Premier League game this season that Chelsea have failed to win despite scoring the first goal (drawn five, lost one) – only West Ham (seven) have failed to win more in which they’ve opened the scoring this term.
Rudiger is the first defender to score a brace for Chelsea in the Premier League since John Terry against Fulham in April 2013; both of his goals that day were also headers.
Barnes has scored in three consecutive league matches for the first time; he only scored in two of his previous 39 league appearances before this.
At the age of 38 years and 126 days, Caballero is the oldest player to make a top-flight appearance this season. Only Mark Schwarzer, another goalkeeper, (41 years old in 2014) has played in the competition for Chelsea at an older age.
Leicester City are unbeaten in their past five Premier League games against Chelsea (won one, drawn four), their best run since a five-match streak between April 1999 and February 2001.
The Blues have won six matches at the King Power Stadium in all competitions, more than any other visiting team.
The home team were winless in the seven most recent league meetings (drawn four, lost three).
Leicester are unbeaten against London sides under Brendan Rodgers, winning seven of 11 top-flight matches.
The Foxes have conceded 15 goals in eight league fixtures, four more than in their opening 17 games.
Vardy has failed to score in his last five league matches, his longest drought under Rodgers.
Both clubs will now enjoy a mini-winter break before they are next in action.
Leicester travel to Wolves on February 14 in the top flight, whereas Chelsea have just over a fortnight off before hosting Manchester United three days later.
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