Six wins and a draw from seven league matches would ordinarily be enough to take the outright lead in the league standings, but as Chelsea remained unbeaten this season with a 4-1 win at Leicester on Saturday, they have to make do with a share of first place as both Brighton and Fulham have matched them point for point so far.
The Blues will only focus on what they can control, however, and will return home to Cobham reflecting on a hard-fought victory against a spirited Foxes team in a match that wasn’t short on incident or controversy. A frantic five minutes on the hour eventually settled this one, as the home team were awarded and scored from a penalty that never should have been, before Chelsea responded with a spot kick of their own – missed but converted from the rebound – and a decisive third goal of the day two minutes later.
Last weekend’s Cup trip to Blackburn allowed Ed Brand to rotate his squad a little more, and there were changes here too, with five new faces coming into the starting eleven. They settled in seamlessly and, after Armando Broja and Joe Haigh had each gone close early on, the latter opened the scoring in the 19th minute when he tapped home from close range after Dion Rankine had done the hard work to create the chance down the right.
Leicester, who have struggled for results this season but were buoyed by a late comeback to draw 4-4 at Man Utd last time out, flashed signs of their potential in the first half, but Jake Askew was rarely tested in the Chelsea goal, which is more than can be said for his opposite number Oliver Bosworth. In inspired form, he produced a string of fine stops before half time, most notably from Levi Colwill and then Broja close to the break, getting down low to his left to prevent what looked like being a certain goal.
This is rarely an easy fixture for the Blues, however, and the second half demonstrated why. Leicester found a renewed intensity and vigour, pushed Chelsea back, and eventually got back to to the match in the 59th minute when they were given a penalty for foul that few in attendance could quite believe was given. Shane Flynn was hardly in a charitable mood, though, and smashed the dead ball straight down the middle past the diving Askew to equalise.
Perhaps the manner in which their lead had been wrestled away from them served as a motive to get straight back into things, or maybe referee Duncan Robertson realised his mistake, but they went straight down the other end and got a penalty of their own when Haigh fell down under the attentions of Dennis Gyamfi. There was more than a whiff of a make-up call about it and, although Bosworth kept Broja’s penalty out, he merely returned it to the Chelsea man for his eighth of the season.
Moments later, Bosworth punched Marcel Lewis’ corner straight into the path of Charlie Wiggett, who could hardly miss from inside the six yard box, and suddenly Chelsea had a two-goal advantage. Not that it was over though, far from it: Leicester poured themselves forward in search of a way back, and challenged their visitors to stand up and defend for their lives.
The chances came and went; Connor Barrett heading wide, Kasey McAteer doing the same from a much better position, and the busy Dempsey Arlott-John doing everything to make sure Aksew was kept busy, but they couldn’t find a way through. Wiggett led by example with composure and focus at the back, Lawrence and Lewis put in the hard yards in midfield, and they were able to add gloss to the scoreline in stoppage time when substitute George Nunn scored a fourth at the end of a team counter attack that reflected the superior fitness levels and patience on the Chelsea team.
As Brighton and Fulham continue to lead the way with superior goal differences at the October International break, all Chelsea can do is win the next match on the schedule, and that’s what they’ve been doing. They welcome bottom of the table Norwich to Cobham when the league returns in mid-October.
Leicester City: Bosworth, D.Gyamfi, Flynn, Barrett, Sams, Tavares, Arlott-John, Loughlin, Russ (McAteer 72), Fitzhugh, Pennant
Subs not Used: Aisthorpe, Odunze, Murch, Marcal-Madivadua
Goal: Flynn 59 (pen)
Chelsea: Askew, Brooking (Clark 65), Wiggett, Simeu (c), Colwill, Lawrence, Rankine (Nunn 72), Ekwah, Broja, Lewis, Haigh (Vale 83)
Subs not Used: Bergström, Aina
Goals: Haigh 19, Broja 61, Wiggett 64, Nunn 90+2