A Wilfred Ndidi header cancelled out Mason Mount’s early strike at Stamford Bridge, as a second half Foxes revival rained on Frank Lampard’s first home match as Chelsea manager.
The writing seemed to be on the wall for this one within the opening five minutes, as by the time Mason Mount dispossessed Wilfred Ndidi and slotted past Kasper Schmeichel from the edge of the box on six minutes, the Dane had already made a catalogue of impressive stops – most notably from Mount – and then Pulisic as he recovered – just seconds prior to the opener.
The 20-year-old’s tenacity had got his side off to a flying start, adding further buoyancy to an already boisterous atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, and although Frank Lampard’s side took their foot off the gas somewhat at 1-0, they had two good chances to double the lead before the half hour mark.
The breakthrough Brendan Rodgers’ side deserved for their start to the second half did eventually come 20 minutes after the interval, and it was the unlikely Ndidi who redeemed himself for his earlier transgressions, as from an expertly-delivered outswinger from Maddison, he rose above Azpilcueta to bullet an unstoppable header past Kepa.
?Maddison in particular was playing like a man possessed, and looked certain to put the visitors ahead as he charged through the Blues defence to create a one-on-one, but to his dismay, he could only blaze an effort over from close range. He then handed Jamie Vardy a terrific chance on a plate with a perfectly-weighted reverse ball, but the striker – looking for his 32nd league goal against top six sides – fluffed his effort wide.
Oh what a miss from James Maddison.
— Scott Saunders (@_scottsaunders) August 18, 2019
Leicester huffed and puffed for the remainder as Chelsea tired out, but in a game of two contrasting halves, a point apiece did justice to the overall balance.
Key Talking Point
The significance of the fixture itself for Chelsea was overshadowed by the fanfare generated by Lampard’s homecoming, as the club’s record goalscorer sat in the dugout for his first competitive match on home turf.
Underpinning the novelty carnival that came with the occasion, however, was an absolute necessity for the Blues to pick up the three points. They were left for dead by Manchester United a week ago, and failure to win again here would have put the pressure well and truly on the new boss.
Their performance against Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup during the week represented a significant improvement on the Old Trafford decimation, however, and Lampard looked to channel that display with his starting lineup. Mount came in for Kovacic in the only change to the initial XI from that game, while in the injury-enforced absence of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen kept his place in the same back four despite his withdrawal prior to extra-time on Tuesday.
They started at a lightning pace, the decision to go with Mount over Barkley immediately paid off, with the youngster offering the perfect foil to the deeper midfield pair of Kante and Jorginho,
The second half, however, exposed that raw tactical naivety that cost them in Manchester, as Lampard failed to react to a more positive, direct showing from the visitors.
Having played 120 minutes on Tuesday, tiredness will have played a factor in their fading out of the game, but the result was a deserved equaliser that dampened the Stamford Bridge sunshine in a flash, and a draw that will do little to lift the underlying malaise around the club at present.
Starting XI: Kepa (6); Azpilcueta (5), Christensen (6), Zouma (6), Emerson (6); Kante (7), Jorginho (6); Pedro (5), Mount (8*), Pulisic (7); Giroud (6)
Subs: Abraham (5), Willian (6), Kovacic (5)
Star Man – Mason Mount
Lampard’s faith in the 20-year-old, a star for his Derby side last season, has been one of the defining aspects of his management in the early stages. He had to justify it with his performances on the pitch, however, and this may just have been the game where he came of age as a Chelsea starter.
1996 – Mason Mount is the first English player to score for Chelsea under an English manager since Dennis Wise under Glenn Hoddle against Blackburn in May 1996. Scafell. pic.twitter.com/fv3QKvDV6t
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 18, 2019
Mason Mount scores the first home goal, and first Premier League goal, of the Frank Lampard era. Appropriately.
— Chelsea Youth (@chelseayouth) August 18, 2019
Mason Mount in the first half for Chelsea:
? Most shots (3)
? Most shots on target (3)
? = Most fouls won (2)
? Most goals (1)
A mouth-watering display so far. ? pic.twitter.com/v9Yd1t4aTl
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 18, 2019
The only thing missing from his performance was a more clinical final touch, as he could have had a hat-trick by half-time. He made his goal for himself however, taking the chance brilliantly when it opened up for him, and if he can smooth the edges of his game over the course of the season and start to show what he can do when his side are struggling, then he will have a lot to contribute in the years to come.
Key Talking Point
While there were no shortage of major stories surrounding Chelsea heading into this one, for Leicester, it was a more understated affair. With Brendan Rodgers having been in charge since February and a settled starting XI in place, we all knew what to expect from them, with Ben Chilwell’s omission – which Rodgers attributed to a niggling hip injury pre-match – the only surprise in the starting lineup. Christian Fuchs’ introduction in his stead was the only change from the side who drew with Wolves on the opening day.
Their start to the game was far from indicative of their usual game, however. Normally comfortable and composed in possession even against the best of teams, the rumbustious atmosphere and high-intensity approach of the home side seemed to get to them in the opening stages, as they had only Schmeichel to thank for keeping the margin down inside the opening ten minutes.
They passed the ball 50 more times than any other Premier League team in the opening weekend, but Ndidi’s costly mistake compounded the initially lacklustre, lackadasical implementation of their possession-based game. As the first half wore on and their hosts tired, they grew into it, keeping the ball and controlling the tempo for long spells, but they failed to create a notable chance in the first 45.
The hairdryer was evidently dusted off at half-time, however, as Dr Jekyll made way for Mr Hyde, and the Foxes started the second half as a side transformed. Ndidi’s redemption strike was the least they deserved for their efforts, and their only real disappointment will stem from the fact they couldn’t come away with all three after Maddison and Vardy missed glorious chances at 1-1.
In the end, however, they come away with another point that will offer huge encouragement for the season ahead.
Starting XI: Schmeichel (7); Pereira (6), Evans (7), Soyuncu (6), Fuchs (5); Tielemans (6), Ndidi (5), Choudhury (6); Perez (6), Vardy (6), Maddison (8*)
Subs: Praet (6), Albrighton
Star Man – James Maddison
Creatively anonymous in the first half but inspiring in the second, it was Maddison who brought about the Leicester revival with a driving performance that showcased every asset he has in his locker.
?? Wilfred Ndidi marks his 100th start for Leicester with a goal – assisted by James Maddison, who has created more PL chances (103) since the start of last season than any player pic.twitter.com/Zc4xBbp9k9
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) August 18, 2019
50 – James Maddison has created 50 chances from set plays in the Premier League since the start of last season (three assists), six more than any other player. Delivery. pic.twitter.com/TBH24fP1Qg
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 18, 2019
His first-rate set-piece delivery meant that Ndidi only had to connect to send a header whizzing past Kepa into the corner, and he was personally responsible for creating two chances – one for himself and one for Jamie Vardy – that should have won the game for his side.
Chelsea face a sticky trip to Norwich on Saturday before returning to Stamford Bridge to face another newly-promoted side in Sheffield United.
Leicester, meanwhile, while be looking to loosen Chris Wilder’s side up as they travel to Sheffield at the weekend, before they make the midweek trip to Newcastle on Carabao Cup duty.