Leicester outclass Chelsea to go top and leave Frank Lampard under fire

Richard Jolly
·3 min read
 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
(POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the bright young things who kicked on under Jose Mourinho’s tutelage at Chelsea is top of the league. Not Frank Lampard, however, but Brendan Rodgers, the unknown coach who Mourinho lured from Reading and promoted.

Rodgers has proved upwardly mobile since then, leapfrogging the Manchester clubs on an evening when his Leicester produced the performance of potential champions. Quicker, cleverer, simply better, they outclassed last summer’s big spenders. They may only lead the division for 24 hours but, five years on from the most improbable of title wins, a sequel feels increasingly possible.

Lampard’s Chelsea languish in eighth, out of the title race and inviting questions if he will soon be out of a job. This was the kind of display that can get a manager the sack. Chelsea were sluggish at the start and shambolic at the back, a fifth defeat in eight games reflecting badly on the man in charge. They were incoherent, Leicester incisive. The Foxes looked the well-coached team. They turned less into more.

READ MORE: Player ratings as Leicester defeat Chelsea

The £50m Ben Chilwell made his first return to Leicester, but his £8m understudy James Justin was the game’s most dynamic left-back. The anonymous Kai Havertz was overshadowed by the cheaper and exuberant James Maddison in a one-sided clash of the No 10s Marc Albrighton, the veteran free transfer, ran like a man possessed. Rodgers, who left Chelsea in 2008, belatedly beat them for the first time.

Leicester celebrate taking the leadPOOL/AFP via Getty Images
Leicester celebrate taking the leadPOOL/AFP via Getty Images

He can wish that maiden win came rather earlier. Chelsea helped cost Rodgers the title in his Liverpool days. Then his holding midfielder, Steven Gerrard, was guilty of an infamous slip. Fast forward seven years and his current anchorman, Wilfred Ndidi, made the right kind of impact, cracking Leicester ahead with his first goal in 15 months.

This was another illustration of Leicester’s prowess in the transfer market – Wesley Fofana’s precocious performance suggested he is one of the signings of the summer – and Chelsea have benefited from their capacity to unearth defensive midfielders. While injury denied N’Golo Kante a reunion with old employers, the man who emerged as his spiritual successor started, starred and scored.

Ndidi, the Fox just outside the box, crashed his shot in off the inside of the post with a satisfying thump. Relief, perhaps, for Harvey Barnes, who had taken an air shot when he had a clearer chance, inadvertently allowing the ball to go to Ndidi, but an indictment of Chelsea. They had been caught out by a short corner routine involving Maddison and Albrighton; this felt a flaw Leicester’s scouts had noticed in Chelsea’s set-piece defending.

Wilfred Ndidi opens the scoringGetty Images
Wilfred Ndidi opens the scoringGetty Images

Leicester brimmed with verve and ambition. Maddison rattled the bar from distance. Edouard Mendy just about clawed a Jamie Vardy chip away after the striker sprang the offside trap. Later he denied Youri Tielemans when Vardy turned provider. Chelsea, once again, were cut apart.

At the other end, Kasper Schmeichel tipped Reece James’ shot over and Callum Hudson-Odoi shot when he should have crossed. And yet, wretched as Chelsea were, they almost levelled. Instead the prospect of 1-1 became the reality of 2-0 in a pivotal minute. VAR denied Chelsea a penalty, determining Jonny Evans’ foul on Christian Pulisic was just outside the area when Craig Pawson had initially ruled it was in. Mason Mount’s resulting free kick cleared the bar, Schmeichel’s subsequent goal kick led to Albrighton providing his second defence-splitting pass of the night and Maddison steered a shot over Mendy. Cue another socially-distanced celebration as Lampard’s vigil on the touchline looked lonelier and lonelier.