Chelsea effectively secured a third-place finish despite failing to capitalise on a dominant performance as they drew 1-1 with Leicester.
The Blues, defeated by Liverpool on penalties in Saturday’s FA Cup final, fell behind when James Maddison curled home a stunning finish in the early stages but it proved to be one of only two Leicester shots in a one-sided game.
Chelsea equalised when Marcos Alonso, who was guilty of slack defending in the build-up to Leicester’s opener, rifled home a lofted cross from fellow wing-back Reece James in the first half.
But they could not find a way past Kasper Schmeichel after that as they endured another frustrating night at Stamford Bridge, where they have only won eight Premier League games out of 18 this season.
Christian Pulisic spurned their best chance, missing an open goal from a Romelu Lukaku centre in the second half, and while the draw puts them three points clear of Tottenham, all but clinching third thanks to their vastly superior goal difference, it was a disappointing result for Thomas Tuchel and his players.
Chelsea: Mendy (6), Chalobah (6), Silva (7), Rudiger (6), Alonso (7), Kante (5), Jorginho (6), James (8), Pulisic (5), Ziyech (6), Lukaku (6).
Subs: Azpilicueta (6), Loftus-Cheek (6), Havertz (6).
Leicester: Schmeichel (8), Amartey (7), Evans (8), Fofana (8), Thomas (7), Dewsbury-Hall (7), Mendy (7), Castagne (7), Maddison (8), Iheanacho (6), Vardy (6).
Subs: Barnes (6), Perez (6).
Man of the match: Reece James
How Leicester frustrated Chelsea
Chelsea started brightly and went close to opening the scoring after four minutes when Hakim Ziyech span away from Daniel Amartey and fired a long-range effort just past the post.
Leicester were struggling to get out of their own half but soon they were ahead, Alonso’s dithering allowing Timothy Castagne to latch onto Schmeichel’s long pass and release a cut-back which deflected into the path of Maddison.
Maddison ran onto the loose ball unopposed, then shimmied away from Thiago Silva before curling a delightful finish inside Edouard Mendy’s left-hand post from outside the Chelsea box.
The goal silenced the home fans but Chelsea continued to dominate possession and territory and went close to equalising a few minutes later when a powerful long-range effort from Trevoh Chalobah was acrobatically saved by Schmeichel.
There was an opening for Romelu Lukaku, starting a fourth consecutive game for the first time since February, but he took too long to get his shot off following N’Golo Kante’s interception and pass, allowing Amartey to get back and make the block.
Instead it was left to Alonso to bring Chelsea level, the Spaniard redeeming his earlier error when he slammed home James’ angled cross on the volley for his fourth Premier League goal of the season.
- Romelu Lukaku led the line for Chelsea while N’Golo Kante and Hakim Ziyech came in for Mateo Kovacic and Mason Mount.
- Leicester switched to a back three, with Kasper Schmeichel returning in goal, Daniel Amartey and Luke Thomas coming into the defence and Kelechi Iheanacho partnering Jamie Vardy.
Chelsea’s dominance continued in the second period but Leicester defended resolutely and when the hosts did create openings, they lacked the cutting edge to take advantage.
Lukaku, who endured another frustrating evening following his poor showing in Saturday’s FA Cup final, headed narrowly wide from a Ziyech cross when he should have hit the target.
Pulisic’s miss, his scuffed shot rolling wide with the goal gaping after Lukaku had been played in on the right-hand side of the Leicester box, came moments later and caused disbelief among the home supporters.
Antonio Rudiger was next to go close as he fired a low effort too close to Schmeichel, and the centre-back was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch when he was only booked for lunging in on Wesley Fofana a few minutes later.
Chelsea continued to push for a winner in the closing stages but Leicester, led by the excellent Jonny Evans in the heart of their back three, held firm and the hosts’ miserable night in front of goal was summed up by a Kai Havertz air-shot in the closing stages.
For Leicester, the draw means they could still leapfrog Wolves into eighth place on the final day of the season on Sunday.
Analysis: James shows midfield potential
Chelsea’s profligacy made this a frustrating night for the home supporters but there was plenty to enjoy about Reece James’ performance, much of which came from central midfield.
The 22-year-old ostensibly lined up in in his usual role at right wing-back but he was running the game even before he was moved into the middle following Cesar Azpilicueta’s introduction for Christian Pulisic in the second half.
He created Marcos Alonso’s equaliser from a midfield position, his delightful diagonal cross allowing the Spaniard to rifle home on the volley, but that was just one of many eye-catching moments.
By the end, only centre-backs Thiago Silva and Trevoh Chalobah had had more touches than James (124) while nobody came close to his total of 38 passes in the final third. He also created three chances and attempted four shots.
The statistics underline his attacking influence but his importance to the side can also be seen in the way his team-mates look for him, and the way he does makes it all look so easy.
Thomas Tuchel raved about N’Golo Kante as Chelsea’s “key player” in his post-match press conference but in truth, nobody is more crucial than James, a young right-back so good he can even do it in central midfield.
Tuchel: We did not take what we deserved
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel said: “We were the better team and deserved to win. We needed a point and we got a point. We didn’t allow anything. We got punished by a shot from outside the box.
“We created enough to win and didn’t allow transitions or chances for Leicester. I’m absolutely fine with the performance. It’s a bit like a broken record. We did not take what we deserve.
“It’s the story of the season. We need an assist from a wing-back and a goal from a wing-back. You can see the numbers of our offensive players and you can see the numbers of the teams who are in front of us. But still, today is the day where we secured top three.
“We had some obstacles to overcome and some circumstances around the club that weren’t easy, so full credit to the team.
“It was a huge step in consistency for us. Maybe it doesn’t feel like that because the gap is so big to the top two teams. Ok, we have stuff to improve but we accept that.”
Analysis: Maddison proving doubters wrong
Across a season that has largely disappointed, the reemergence of James Maddison will be a point of consolation for Brendan Rodgers.
The forward is getting noticed – not for the first time – but has added consistency to his growing portfolio. Until now, Maddison’s progress has been blighted by injury, but also poor form.
The 25-year-old’s irregularities have previously made high praise difficult. Maddison has produced sporadic moments of brilliance for Leicester ever since signing in 2018, but is now performing on a weekly basis.
He may even be playing his way into contention for England – although he faces stiff competition in that area. Regardless, Gareth Southgate might wish to take another look before assembling this year’s World Cup squad.
Maddison has scored at Anfield, the Etihad and now Stamford Bridge this term, taking his seasonal tally to 17. He’s not afraid of a big stage.
Since his Premier League debut in 2018, he’s scored 14 goals from outside the box; only James Ward-Prowse (15) has netted more. He offers a creativeness most fail to match up to and seven assists isn’t a bad return, either. With injury woes behind him, he almost looks like a different prospect.
Rodgers: We thoroughly deserved a point
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said: “We got off to a great start. Wonderful goal. Terrific play and James’ finish was superb. You know when you play against Chelsea you’re going to have to defend well and be super concentrated. The players were that.
“We’re disappointed with the goal – he obviously gets in at the back post. Apart from that, concentration levels were good. We didn’t have too many scares. We defended corners well. It was the very least the players deserved.
“It’s a top level squad, they’re last year’s European champions. They have players in tight spaces who are very very accomplished. If you give them too much space they will hurt you. We’ve seen that already this season.
“For this game, it’s a deeper space you have to play in. There weren’t too many opportunities and if you can do that coming to Stamford Bridge, it shows how good your organisation was.”
Chelsea round off their Premier League season at home to relegated Watford on Sunday while Leicester host Southampton, with both games kicking off at 4pm.