Chelsea got their revenge for Saturday’s FA Cup final defeat as they beat Leicester to reclaim their grip on Champions League qualification, and deliver a blow to the Foxes’ chances of making the top four.
Chelsea started on top and had shouts for a penalty for a foul on Timo Werner waved away, before the German saw a goal disallowed for offside midway through the first half.
The striker was then denied for the second time, and for the second time by VAR, after replays showed he had bundled the ball into the net with his arm following a corner.
For all their dominance, the hosts went into half-time level - but it did not take them long to finally open the scoring after the break. Antonio Rudiger got onto the end of a Chilwell corner to turn the ball in from two yards as Leicester’s defence eventually crumbled.
Chelsea were then given a break by VAR after it awarded a penalty for Wesley Fofana’s trip on Werner, which it ruled had taken place in the box. Jorginho stepped up to send Schmeichel the wrong way.
Leicester pulled one back with 15 minutes to play after Wilfried Ndidi robbed Matteo Kovacic before setting up Kelechi Iheanacho, who buried his shot into the bottom corner to set up a nervy finish for Thomas Tuchel’s side.
Ayoze Perez blazed a golden opportunity over the bar from inside the box in stoppage time as the FA Cup winners suffered a costly defeat in their top-four chase.
Here are five things we learned at Stamford Bridge...
Chelsea respond to deliver important win
After two flat performances threatened to sour Tuchel’s debut campaign at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea returned to form to secure a vital win over Leicester and take back control of their top-four hopes.
The returning fans in west London might have played their part as Chelsea played with purpose and urgency, two aspects of their play that had been missing in last week’s home defeat to Arsenal and Saturday’s FA Cup final defeat.
Failure to beat Leicester would have made the unthinkable scenario of missing out on the top four all the more possible, which in itself was a target that appeared out of the club’s reach when Tuchel was appointed in January.
But under pressure, Chelsea responded. Mason Mount was excellent again, while the combination of the England international along with Werner and Pulisic in Chelsea’s front three proved effective.
The hosts dominated possession and while a cutting edge continued to elude them, they got a break with Rudiger’s goal from a set-piece and Jorginho’s penalty.
Chelsea were almost made to pay for their wastefulness in front of goal after Iheanacho’s finish put their three points in danger - but the Blues held on to secure what is perhaps their most important Premier League win since Tuchel’s appointment.
Defeat does not take shine off Leicester’s FA Cup win
It’s understandable that Leicester weren’t at the races at Stamford Bridge following Saturday’s high of lifting the FA Cup.
The club entered this month with the dual goal of winning the competition for the first time in their history and sealing a top-four spot in the Premier League.
It would have been a huge blow if they had missed out on both, so by already securing one, there was always going to be a drop off as their attention returned to Champions League qualification.
The race isn’t over yet, but defeat at Stamford Bridge means their fate is no longer in their hands. Liverpool will join Chelsea in the top four if both teams win their remaining fixtures.
Of course, having spent the whole season in the top four, the idea of dropping out in the last week of the season, as they did last year, will be tough to swallow for Brendan Rodgers.
But with the FA Cup already in the bag, huge strides have already been taken for Rodgers and his side. Winning a piece of silverware also provided another priceless moment for the club and its fanbase, something that participation in the Champions League would not have been able to replicate unless they reached the latter stages of the competition.
Their focus now will be on beating Spurs on Sunday so that if either Chelsea or Liverpool do slip up, they’ll be there to take advantage.
Chelsea fans were left sweating on the fitness of N’Golo Kante after the midfielder was removed midway through the first half and headed straight down the tunnel with an injury - 11 days before the Champions League final against Manchester City in Porto.
The influential Frenchman did not require treatment before he left the pitch, suggesting the substitution may have been precautionary, but the fact he could not continue such an important match does not bode well for Tuchel and his team.
There was some good news, however, as Matteo Kovacic made his return after missing Chelsea’s past 10 games with a thigh injury.
The midfielder looked a little rusty, however, and was caught on the ball by Ndidi in the move that led to Iheanacho’s goal.
With just one Premier League match remaining before the Champions League final, it does not give the Croatian long to get back up to speed - which will not give Tuchel much encouragement as he awaits news of Kante’s injury.
FA Cup final adjustments
Tuchel made three changes to his line-up from Saturday’s FA Cup final defeat, with Christian Pulisic and Ben Chilwell receiving starts and Edouard Mendy returning in goal.
And it didn’t take long for those omitted from Tuchel’s Wembley selection to show their manager what he was missing.
Pulisic was bright and heavily involved early on as Chelsea flew out of the traps, while Chilwell was a danger on the left against his former team. In the opening 10 minutes they provided more thrust and urgency than either Hakim Ziyech or Marcos Alonso did at Wembley, further adding to Tuchel’s regret, perhaps, that he got his line-up wrong on Saturday.
For Leicester, James Maddison came in for Kelechi Iheanacho. The England international struggled to make an impact, however, as Leicester spent much of the match on the back foot, and he was withdrawn before the hour. Iheanacho came off the bench to pull one back, for his seventh goal in nine games.
Maddison, meanwhile, has now gone eight games without registering a goal or an assist since returning from a hip injury in April, and it looks increasingly unlikely that he’ll make Gareth Southgate’s 26-man England squad for Euro 2020.
Chelsea fans voice support
As home fans returned to Stamford Bridge for the first time since December, it took just two minutes for the Chelsea crowd to voice their support for Frank Lampard.
Louds chants of “Super Frankie Lampard” could be heard in recognition of the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, who was sacked in January and replaced with Tuchel.
Although the home fans would unanimously agree that the right decision was made, given Chelsea’s run to the Champions League final under Tuchel, the audible support suggests there remains some resentment at how the club legend was treated after he was sacked midway though his second season in charge.
Chelsea’s fans also showed their support for Timo Werner, who has struggled for goals in his first season at Stamford Bridge, and had another difficult night here.
The reception for the German showed that there is an appreciation for the work he has put in since joining the club, even if that has not been reflected in his numbers since moving to England.
And the fact he received such a positive backing should be a boost to the 25-year-old’s confidence ahead of the end of the season, as well as his second campaign at the club.
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