For the second game running the Blues went 2-0 behind in the first half but this time we stormed back in style to progress in the EFL Cup.
The defending that led to Shinji Okazaki giving the Premier League champions that two-goal lead with little over half-an-hour played will continue to concern Antonio Conte, but crucially his side showed the character to pull one back before half-time through Gary Cahill.
Another member of the defence then weighed in on the act. Cesar Azpilicueta may have been long odds to be a goal-of-season candidate at the start of the campaign but he will surely be one now. That strike by the Spaniard sent the game into extra time during which this third-round tie was won emphatically by two goals from substitute Cesc Fabregas. Leicester by then were playing a man down due to a 90th-minute red card.
It was also a night for two Chelsea debuts. The only changes from the starting line-up for the win over Bristol Rovers in the previous round were in defence, where Marco Alonso made his first start and David Luiz was also selected. Ruben Loftus-Cheek was given another opportunity in attack, playing as the supporting striker to Michy Batshuayi.
N’Golo Kante had travelled to his former home and was among the subs named by Conte but remained unused, unlike another midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah who was the other player who made his Chelsea bow.
Our head coach’s compatriot Claudio Ranieri opted for a mix of regular first teamers with some newer players for this domestic knockout encounter, and the visitors had the ball in the Leicester net inside five minutes but Pedro had been flagged marginally offside before he was presented with the opportunity to score.
The first sight of Alonso’s attacking potential came three minutes later when he collected the ball wide from fellow Spaniard Pedro, and very nearly planted it on the toe of Batshuayi who had made a near-post run.
The impetus in these opening exchanges was with Chelsea but we very nearly presented the Foxes with a goalscoring chance when Cahill’s loose touch was snatched upon by Okazaki. He fed Ahmed Musa but David Luiz was quickly across and did enough.
The mistakes kept coming though and this time we didn’t escape. Alonso lost the ball out wide and no one at the back emerged with much credit as more than one chance to clear or claim the ball was not taken, allowing Okazaki to head in from a narrow angle. It was behind the line by the time Cahill’s attempted clearance hooked it out.
It was Leicester’s turn to be slack on 25 minutes, which gave Pedro the chance to cross and Batshuayi a free header beyond the far post, but the Belgian couldn’t direct it back enough and nodded wide.
A couple of carefully judged Fabregas passes and a penetrating Ruben Loftus-Cheek run along the by-line continued to get the Blues back on the front foot. Pedro, our most involved attacking player, couldn’t get a strong enough touch to a high ball into the six-yard box with half-an-hour gone but shortly after came the major set-back of a second goal conceded.
Pedro, at the other end of the pitch now, cleared upfield but only to a Leicester shirt and Okazaki was released. This time he enjoyed a degree of good fortune with his finish, which clipped off the covering David Luiz and bounced down in a way that bypassed Begovic. Once again the ball was a foot over the line before it was cleared. We now had just under an hour of football to remedy a two-goal deficit.
Loftus-Cheek had a shot that was relatively comfortable for Ron-Robert Zieler in the Leicester goal. Demarai Gray worked Begovic more at the other end. Moses and Pedro both sent testing balls across the face of the home team’s goal but there was no one there to finish.
On the stroke of half-time there was a good link-up between Loftus-Cheek and Batshuayi but Marcin Wasilewski did well to get his block onto our centre-forward’s shot. We had won a corner though, and that turned into a lifeline grabbed.
Fabregas was the set-piece taker and the head of Cahill was the recipient. Remarkably for the third time in the game the ball was marginally over the line before an opposing boot met it, but it bounced back in off David Luiz anyway. It was however Cahill’s goal.
Now the Blues had the whole of the second half to remedy a one-goal deficit. We needed just four minutes.
Even before that goal there had been chances and shots at both ends, but now Azpilicueta produced what is surely the goal of his career so far, the sweetest of right-foot volleys from outside the area that crashed past Zieler. The celebration by the full-back for his fourth goal for Chelsea was almost as good. His manager was of course suitably animated as well.
The home side had a penalty shout turned down shortly before the hour mark, the ref ruling in favour of Azpilicueta over Gray.
The next 10 minutes passed relatively without incident so Conte decided it was time to introduce the added threat of Diego Costa, although moments later it was Batshuayi shooting on the turn and only denied by a very good save.
Diego Costa’s first chance came quickly, made by a fantastic David Luiz pass but although he beat the keeper, he also missed the goal.
Leicester too went close not long after when David Luiz misjudged a high ball but Begovic pulled off the very definition of a finger-tip save to send Gray’s shot wide. Andy King then wasted a great chance as we began to look ragged at the back again.
Our next substitution was the second Chelsea debut of the night. Twenty-one-year-old Nathaniel Chalobah was brought on to play midfield with Batshuayi making way.
Diego Costa was looking very dangerous. Three times he had shots kept out, including a double save by Zieler. Danny Drinkwater was booked for tripping him on a goalbound run. David Luiz went pretty close with the free-kick.
Eden Hazard was introduced shortly before the end of normal time. Leicester had swapped their strikers earlier with Jamie Vardy and Leonardo Ulloa now on. Before the whistle they were also down to 10 men.
Centre-back Wasilewski was the man dismissed having earlier collected a card for a foul on Loftus-Cheek and now he caught Diego Costa with an arm in the face. The pendulum was swinging our way and Moses came closest to winning it in the four added minutes.
Hazard had not had the time to make an impact before the 90 minutes were completed, but he needed less than 90 seconds of extra time do so. His back-heel on the run was perfectly played to Fabregas who weighed in with a great finish, beating Zieler at his near post when the keeper was expecting a shot to the far one. 3-2 to Chelsea and in the blink of an eye it was 4-2, Fabregas this time cracking a shot high into the net after the keeper had made a hash of a high ball in a crowd of his own players with added Diego Costa. ‘Fabregas is Magic…’ rang out from the travelling support.
The Foxes were flummoxed and it needed a diving save to deny Matic a goal. David Luiz was booked at the start of the second period of extra time as Leicester attacked for the first time in a while, but Ranieri’s team would not trouble us again.
We will discover our fourth-round opponents when the draw is made after Wednesday night’s games.
Chelsea (4-2-4): Begovic; Azpilicueta, Cahill (c), David Luiz, Alonso; Fabregas, Matic; Moses, Loftus-Cheek (Diego Costa 67), Batshuayi (Chalobah 80), Pedro.
Unused subs Courtois, Aina, Kante, Hazard, Willian.
Scorers Cahill 45+1, Azpilicueta 49, Fabregas 92, 94
Booked Matic 83, David Luiz 109
Leicester (4-4-2): Zieler; Simpson, Wasilewski, Morgan (c), Chilwell; Gray (Amartey 90+1), Drinkwater, King, Schlupp; Musa (Vardy 76), Okazaki (Ulloa 75)
Unused subs Hamer, Benalouane, Kapustka, Mahrez.
Scorer Okazaki 17, 34
Sent off Wasilewski 89
Booked Drinkwater 87, Wasilewski 52, Chilwell 103
Referee Robert Madley
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