An intense top-four match between Chelsea and Leicester City lived up to the billing as the Blues beat the Foxes 2-1 on Tuesday at the King Power Stadium.
The game was in the balance right up until Ayoze Perez blasted Leicester’s UCL footing into outer space at the edge of stoppage time.
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Antonio Rudiger and Jorginho scored on either side of halftime for the Blues, who move into third place with 67 points and one match left in their Premier Lague season.
Kelechi Iheanacho capitalized off a Chelsea error to put the game back up for grabs, but Leicester settles for fourth place on 66 points. The FA Cup champions now need to beat Tottenham and hope Liverpool doesn’t fails to win one of its final two matches.
There was a bit of a scrap late as the two teams who met twice in four days mixed and mingled on the touch line.
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Three things we learned from Chelsea – Leicester City
1. Lamps’ little-used becomes Tuchel’s titans: As Frank Lampard is rumored to replace Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace, it’s worth remembering that the Chelsea boss couldn’t solve his club’s defending and still kept both a world-class center back and metronome on the bench. The latter, Antonio Rudiger, has been perhaps the key veteran piece in putting Chelsea back on track under Thomas Tuchel, and the big German was at the doorstep to bundle the corner kick over the line that sent the Blues back into the Champions League.
Then there’s Jorginho, who rolled his penalty home to double the lead after the hour mark. Look at the differences between the playing time for both players before and after Lampard was fired and Tuchel hired on Jan. 25
Before Jan. 25
Chelsea record: 8W-5D-6L
Jorginho: 11 appearances and nine starts
Rudiger: Four matches, all starts
After Jan. 25
Chelsea record: 11W-5D-2L
Jorginho: 16 appearances and 14 starts
Rudiger: 14 appearances, all starts
2. Mount injury will be monitored: Chelsea (and England) fans were happy to see Mason Mount pop up from a lengthy injury treatment in the second half, but how he responds to playing on will bear monitoring.
3. Natural letdown to (probably) cost Leicester City the Champions League: If you’re looking to why managers hold league matches above cup ties, even finals, look no further than the vibe at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. Chelsea lost to Leicester in the FA Cup Final on Saturday and will not relish that one but, but their hunger and freshness will deliver them into the Champions League. It’s natural that the Foxes couldn’t replicate their hunger after a memorable trophy lift after beating these same foes, but it won’t bring any relief to the losing visitors. The Foxes will need to beat Tottenham they will need Liverpool to drop points to Burnley and/or Crystal Palace.
Man of the Match: Antonio Rudiger
If he didn’t score he might’ve still been Man of the Match, an energized defender looming at the back of every Chelsea stand.
Chelsea – Leicester City recap
The opening moments lived up to the billing, as Leicester did not show signs of an FA Cup hangover and Chelsea showed its wounds were still fresh.
But Chelsea kept coming and Leicester started losing its mojo under the pressure of a stung and desperate home side.
Christian Pulisic couldn’t slide onto the end of a Ben Chilwell cross early and Mason Mount blazed a shot over the goal.
Timo Werner should’ve drawn a penalty off Youri Tielemans but neither MIke Dean nor VAR saw a foul.
Werner had the ball in the goal but was offside moments later, then deprived another goal when he headed the ball off his right arm and over the line.
Rudiger put the Blues ahead off a corner, celebrating with the fans after bundling over the line off Chilwell’s service.
Werner kept working, and VAR gave him a penalty for a takedown on the edge of the box. Jorginho rolled it home for 2-0.