Chelsea play 2-2 draw with Leicester as Rudiger scores twice

Rudiger scores a beautiful header
Rudiger scores a beautiful header

CHELSEA extended their Blue-doo hoodoo over Brendan Rodgers to 14 games, without a solitary success for the Northern Irishman.

Two second half Antonio Rudiger headers – sandwiched strikes from Harvey Barnes and Ben Chilwell – were enough to earn Chelsea a point.

But there was controversy in stoppage time when a Barnes cross clearly came off Rudiger’s trailing hand and Leicester claimed a penalty.

Referee Lee Mason had been the VAR ref who denied them a stonewall penalty against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup semi-final on Tuesday and again he ruled against the Foxes.

VAR was called in but Graham Scott at Stockley Park agreed there was no intent and Chelsea survived, on a day when Frank Lampard dropped his first-choice goalie Kepa to the bench.

Leicester will be happy to maintain their eight-point advantage over Chelsea to stay on course for a Champions’ League slot.

This might have been billed as a showdown between the best of the rest as third-placed Leicester took on fourth-placed Chelsea.

Instead all it did was underline the gulf which exists between Liverpool and, Manchester City on their day – and the others in the chasing pack.

This was a day when blood and thunder was replaced by thud and blunder, and both sides gifted their opponent’s cheap, easily avoidable goals.

However the forwards shouldn’t smirk at the back, as they too, were guilty of some glaring misses in front of goal.

The most significant came with 11 minutes remaining of this see-saw affair.

Leicester broke at pace and Vardy and Perez exchanged passes before Vardy stroked an inch-perfect pass into the path of Harvey Barnes.

The winger’s confidence should have been soaring as he had already scored. However the winger got it hopelessly wrong this time, clipping his shot wide of Chelsea’s far post with the goal at his mercy.

Ironically the first half had been dominated by some top quality defending as Jonny Evans’ positioning frustrated Chelsea and repelled so many promising attacks.

N’Golo Kante did a similar job for Lampard’s men back on familiar soil, snuffing out danger wherever he roamed.

Behind him was a surprise choice in goal as Frank Lampard showed his ruthless side.

His patience finally snapped with goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga who was controversially axed and replaced by Willy Caballero.

The 25-year-old is the most expensive goalie in the world and cost an eye-watering £71million but Lampard was more concerned with the costly goals he has been shipping lately.

2 – Antonio Rüdiger is the first defender to score a brace for Chelsea in the Premier League since John Terry against Fulham in April 2013; both of his goals that day were also headed. Noggin. #LEICHE
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 1, 2020

He sent an SOS to veteran keeper Cabelleroto make the 38-year-old Argentine the oldest player to perform in the Premier League this season.

He came to the rescue to keep his side level during a dour first half – showing good reflexes to defy Vardy with an outstretched left leg when the striker seemed certain to score.

Five minutes earlier Chelsea had a penalty claim turned down after VAR agreed with ref Lee Mason that there had been no contact between Caglar Soyuncu and Tammy Abraham after the Chelsea striker went down theatrically in the box.

If the first half was stale and sterile the second half more than made up for it as both defences went AWOL.

Antonio Rudiger gave Chelsea the lead within 40 seconds of the restart when he was allowed a free header at the back post and duly nodded Mason Mount’s corner beyond Kasper Schmeichel.

Leicester responded and equalised eight minutes later when Harvey Barnes cut inside and curled a right foot shot which took a wicked deflection off Andreas Christensen and spun beyond Cabellero to find the far corner of the net.

Brendan Rodgers team were suddenly on top and they hit the front after 64 minutes with a goal which left Lampard’s defence holding an inquiry.

There seemed little danger when Chilwell’s cross sped across goal but Caballero felt the need to chase down the ball, then thought better of it as Ricardo Pereira’s pace got him there first.

The keeper slammed on the anchors and tried to get back in position but the same couldn’t be said for his defence which gazed on as the ball was centred and Chilwell knocked in at the back post.

However Leicester were also having a bad day in defence and they gifted Chelsea the equaliser seven minutes later with another aberration.

Mason Mount swung in a free kick from the left and Chilwell was somehow left trying to mark Christensen and Rudiger – two of Chelsea’s biggest aerial threats.

It was an embarrassing mismatch and Rudiger duly sent a looping header over Schmeichel to pull his side level.

There was a late scare for Lampard’s men when Barnes clipped in a cross with the outside of his boot which struck Rudiger’s hand.

VAR was called on but decided the defender had his back to the play and there had been no intent to gain an advantage or thrust his arm into an unnatural position.

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