BY PAUL LAGAN
Antonio Rudiger salvaged a point for Chelsea with a wonderful header as the Blues drew 2-2 at the King Power Stadium against Leicester City this afternoon.
The German centre-back had given the west Londoners an early second-half lead with another header, but Chelsea fell apart in alarming fashion – conceding two goals to a spirited but unimaginative home side.
Chelsea remain eight points behind third place Leicester, but Manchester United, Wolves and Spurs will look to close the gap to the lucrative Champions League fourth spot.
It was a cagey start with both sides misplacing passes, the worse offender was Callum Hudson-Odoi, on five minutes, when he produced an air-shot from a great position, just inside the Leicester penalty area.
Mason Mount was fed the ball brilliantly from Hudson-Odoi on 12 minutes, but the England midfielder blasted the ball over Kasper Schmeichel’s crossbar. The linesman also adjusted he was offside, but it was a close thing.
Tammy Abraham had two half-chances in the space of three minutes – the second was a great chance, but he failed to latch onto a brilliant right-wing cross by Reece James.
Chelsea had a VAR decision go against them when it looked like Abraham was clipped by Calgar Soyuncu on 20 minutes.
Willy Caballero justified his selection ahead of world-record priced goalkeeper Kepa when he thwarted Jamie Vardy on 25 minutes.
Excellent defending prevented Mount from scoring four minutes from the break, as the Blues piled on the pressure.
There were no changes by either side at half-time
But within 44 seconds of the restart, the Blues took the lead.
A regulation corner from Mount was met by Antonio Rudiger’s head at the back post and the German centre-half nodded home past Schmeichel.
The lead lasted eight minutes – Harvey Barnes received the ball on the left, he cut inside and tried a curler. The ball took a wicked deflection of James, and, still curling, looped over the desperate reach of Caballero into the far corner of his net.
Chelsea were a defensive shambles when they conceded their second on 65 minutes.
Caballero needlessly chased down a byline ball, but was back in place between the sticks when the ball zipped back across goal and Ben Chilwell was on hand to smash home from eight yards out.
Youri Tielemans produced a venomous 35 yarder on 68 minutes which Caballero did well to dive to his right to parry the ball way to safety.
Seconds later and again from a dead ball situation, this time a Mount free-kick, up popped Rudiger to beautifully head the ball past Schmeichel to level the score.
Head coach Frank Lampard was about to bring on Mateo Kovacic and Willian, and he did so straight afterwards – Pedro and Jorginho made way.
The Foxes should have notched up their third, but Jonny Evans missed a gilt-edged chance when he headed wide from eight yards – he was completely unchallenged.
This was quickly followed by a quick counter-attack by the home side which saw Barnes somehow slide the ball wide of Caballero’s goal.
Lampard’s response to this was to take off ineffectual Abraham and bring on midfielder Ross Barkley.
If it was to kill the game off and secure a point, it worked.
A late shout for a Leicester VAR penalty was justifiably ignored and the Blues faithful headed back down the M1 content that Chelsea came away undefeated.
Chelsea: Caballero, Rudiger, Christensen, Jorginho, Kante, Abraham, Pedro, Mount, Hudson-Odoi, James, Azpilicueta
Subs: Kepa, Alonso, Barkley, Willian, Kovacic, Batshuayi, Tomori
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Chilwell, Soyuncu, Evans, Tielemans, Vardy, Maddison, Barnes, Perez, Choudhury, Pereira,
Subs: Justin, Gray, Albrighton, Ward, Iheanacho, Praet, Fuchs
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