Chelsea survived a late Leicester onslaught with only 10 players to claim an invaluable Premier League win at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon, with Raheem Sterling netting both goals in a 2-1 victory after Conor Gallagher’s early red card.
Leicester had Harvey Barnes to thank for their goal and probably should have done more with their player advantage – the Foxes remain win-less after four games of the season.
Chelsea started brightest and had the first big chance of the game when Sterling won the ball in midfield and sent a cross to Ruben Loftus-Cheek at the far post. But the ensuing effort was well saved by Danny Ward.
Loftus-Cheek was involved again soon after, seemingly winning a penalty when tangling with Youri Tielemans in the box, only for VAR to spot an offside in the build-up and overturn it.
Chelsea continued to dominate the ball as the first half progressed without finding the necessary penetration, with Gallagher’s dismissal for two yellow inside half an hour offering Leicester a foothold in the game. The home-grown midfielder was naïve in the way he took out Barnes, who had picked up a loose pass from Marc Cucurella, whilst already booked once.
Leicester did have the ball in the net soon after, only to see the referee blow for a foul as Barnes headed in as he jumped with Mendy, who was arguably fortunate to get the decision.
Reece James cracked a shot on the half volley into the outside of the post in the closing stages of the half after James Justin had initially beaten Mason Mount to a teasing cross. Straight up at the other end, Jamie Vardy pulled a glorious chance badly wide. In first half stoppage time, Mendy reacted quickly to close down Timothy Castagne’s shot at the far post.
There was an element of fortune in Chelsea’s breakthrough in the moments after half-time, with Sterling seeing his shot deflect off Daniel Amartey and loop over Danny Ward into the net. Sterling should have scored again only moments later when he hit the inside of the post – the result of the slightest touch off Ward’s outstretched right foot.
Sterling did get the second goal to give Chelsea an all-important buffer just after the hour mark, tapping in inside the six-yard box from James’ low cross. But barely any sooner had they established that two-goal cushion, Barnes cut it back to just one when his one-two with Vardy and powerful low finish beat Mendy at the near post.
Leicester tried to make their advantage count in an effort to find the equaliser. With Tielemans exerting more and more control of things, Barnes and Vardy both forced Mendy into saves in the final quarter of the game.
Substitute Ayoze Perez could only find the side netting with a good chance and later thwacked the crossbar in the closing stages as Leicester attacked relentlessly. But there was to be no late equaliser as Chelsea dug in and clung onto their narrow lead.
1. Chelsea (4-4-2)
GK: Edouard Mendy - 7/10 - Let off the hook by the referee's whistle at one stage, but made a key save at 0-0 and then at 2-1.
RB: Reece James - 7/10 - One of Chelsea's better sources of open play creativity. Hit the post, although Barnes also gave him trouble.
CB: Thiago Silva - 7/10 - Appeared to be playing through pain in the second half and marshalled Vardy pretty well overall.
CB: Trevoh Chalobah - 6/10 - Did his defensive duty well enough.
LB: Marc Cucurella - 7/10 - Complicit in Gallagher's red card with a poor ball in the immediate build-up. Got forward well in the second half.
RM: Ruben Loftus-Cheek - 6/10 - Played relatively narrow and his position was effective by allowing him to get into the box. Faded later on.
CM: Jorginho (c) - 6/10 - What you'd expect from a Jorginho performance, racking up the passing numbers.
CM: Conor Gallagher - 4/10 - A lack of experience shone through with two yellow cards inside half an hour.
LM: Mason Mount - 6/10 - Sacrificed at half-time to give Chelsea more defensive solidity after the red card. Had done alright.
ST: Kai Havertz - 6/10 - Largely quiet but crucially involved in creating the second goal for Sterling.
ST: Raheem Sterling - 8/10 - Started well and later rose to the occasion with two well-taken goals. Also only denied a hat-trick by a combination of Ward's toe and the post.
SUB: Cesar Azpilicueta (46' for Mount) - 7/10
SUB: Mateo Kovacic (75' for Jorginho) - 5/10
SUB: Christian Pulisic (75' for Sterling) - 5/10
SUB: Ben Chilwell (90+2' for Cucurella) - N/A
Manager: Thomas Tuchel - 7/10 - Watched the game from the stands, but the half-time substitution made a huge difference to Chelsea.
2. Leicester (4-1-4-1)
GK: Danny Ward - 6/10 - Left helpless by the deflection for Chelsea's but made a top save to stop the hosts doubling that lead straight after.
RB: Timothy Castagne - 5/10 - Good when he went forward, although it probably didn't happen often enough. Defensively suspect.
CB: Daniel Amartey - 6/10 - Saw plenty of the ball in possession. The deflection for the opening goal was disappointing.
CB: Jonny Evans (c) - 6/10 - Made a great goal-saving tackle in the first half but hurt himself in the process.
LB: James Justin - 6/10 - Had a great battle with James.
DM: Boubakary Soumare - 5/10 - Not the most commanding performance. Passed accurately but probably too safe.
RM: Dennis Praet - 5/10 - Didn't see a lot of the ball, nor did he hold onto it particularly well. Minimal influence.
CM: Youri Tielemans - 7/10 - Fortunate an offside saved him after a clumsy challenge on Loftus-Cheek. But on the ball was good and was perhaps the Foxes' chief creative spark, particularly late on.
CM: Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall - 6/10 - Seemed to be involved in quite a bit of action without doing anything truly decisive.
LM: Harvey Barnes - 8/10 - A clear source of danger and was worth his second half goal. Grew with confidence as the game wore on.
ST: Jamie Vardy - 6/10 - Didn't have a lot of service from open play and missed a great chance at 0-0. But he got a great assist for Barnes.
SUB: Ayoze Perez (55' for Praet) - 6/10
SUB: Kelechi Iheanacho (55' for Soumare) - 6/10
SUB: Wilfred Ndidi (89' for Tielemans) - N/A
Manager: Brendan Rodgers - 6/10 - Really went for it with attacking substitutions after Chelsea got ahead, which did at least make the Foxes more of a threat than they had been.