It was an unhappy return to Stamford Bridge for Claudio Ranieri on Saturday as his Leicester side were made to pay for a desperately poor first-half display by a ruthlessly efficient Chelsea.
Ranieri sprung a surprise before the contest in dropping last season’s player of the year Riyad Mahrez to the substitutes’ bench, with the Italian citing tiredness, international duty and their forthcoming Champions League match with FC Copenhagen on Tuesday night as his reasons.
Chelsea settled the quicker of the two teams as Antonio Conte’s side sprayed the ball around with confidence before they were gifted the lead in the seventh minute as Leicester conceded from yet another set-piece.
The Foxes somewhat ridiculously conceded three goals from corners in their 4-1 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford last month and they appear not to have learnt their lesson.
Eden Hazard’s corner was flicked on by Nemanja Matic at the near post and Diego Costa was given the freedom of the Leicester penalty area to dispatch past a helpless Kasper Schmeichel from close range.
Foxes skipper Wes Morgan inexcusably let Costa go and the Jamaica international was left holding his head in his hands as he could only watch from the penalty spot at the absolute ocean of space he’d afforded the Premier League’s top marksman.
It was an extremely poor piece of defending which resulted in one of if not the softest goals Claudio Ranieri’s side will ever concede.
The lead was doubled after 33 minutes through Hazard when Matic, with no pressure on the ball, was allowed to slide a ball right down the heart of the pitch to Pedro as both Robert Huth and Luis Hernandez went for the same ball and missed it.
Pedro somehow managed to knock the ball on from the floor to send Hazard into the clear and the Belgian calmly rounded Schmeichel to double the advantage.
As former Arsenal striker Alan Smith noted in commentary, it was another ‘pitiful goal to concede’ from last season’s champions.
The first-half was as one-sided a contest as is imaginable, with former Chelsea boss Gianluca Vialli commenting at the break that Leicester were playing a ‘soulless game.’
Leicester improved vastly in the second period with Danny Drinkwater in particular coming to the fore and seeing a lot more of the ball.
The Foxes were unlucky when Luiz was fortunate not to put through his own net with Jamie Vardy waiting for a tap in behind him, as the Brazilian defender’s intervention cannoned back off the post.
Leicester didn’t deserve anything following their first-half performance however and incredibly, this was the third successive Premier League game in which the Foxes have failed to register a shot on target in the first-half.
The game was put to bed 10 minutes from time when substitute Nathaniel Chalobah’s exquisite back heel freed Victor Moses into a one-on-one situation with Schmeichel and the Nigerian duly dispatched the ball home.
Leicester next face Copenhagen in the Champions League at the King Power on Tuesday night before hosting Crystal Palace next Saturday while Conte’s Chelsea face Manchester United at Stamford Bridge next Sunday.