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Jamie Vardy eases pressure on Claude Puel as Leicester stun Chelsea

By December 22, 2018No Comments

Jamie Vardy pounced to give Leicester and boss Claude Puel a valuable and worthy 1-0 win at Chelsea.

Eden Hazard hit the crossbar in the first half and Vardy punished Chelsea’s profligacy six minutes into the second half to ease the pressure on Foxes boss Puel with Leicester’s first win at Stamford Bridge in 18 years.

Maurizio Sarri’s Blues, for whom Marcos Alonso hit a post in stoppage time, have now lost three of their last six Premier League games and desperately need a goalscorer to ease the burden on Hazard.

The Foxes had won just two of their nine games since the October 27 helicopter crash which resulted in the death of five people, including chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

A run of two wins in 12 games had led to speculation Puel’s position was in jeopardy, but a first win at Chelsea since September 2000 should ease the pressure.

Vardy admitted the Frenchman’s patient style did not suit him ahead of the contest, but his strike showed the value of having a recognised striker on the pitch.

Chelsea strikers Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud have been far from prolific, with speculation Chelsea will seek to buy a forward in January, and Sarri started Hazard as the attacking focal point for a third straight Premier League game, after wins over Manchester City and Brighton.

Hazard was prominent from the start. He ran into the immovable object Wes Morgan and crumbled to the floor, but Chelsea kept possession and the ball in play.

David Luiz paused while Hazard stood up before the defender launched a long ball forwards towards Willian, but the ball eluded both the Brazil midfielder and Kasper Schmeichel to go narrowly wide.

Luiz next halted the excellent Ben Chilwell’s run into the box and Morgan headed wide from Marc Albrighton’s cross soon afterwards.

Luiz should have scored when a Willian corner was flicked on by Pedro at the near post, but the ball passed inches in front of the defender’s face as it flashed by the far post.

Puel was animated in his technical area and frustrated with the Foxes for relinquishing possession too freely.

Perhaps the pressure was telling, but on the field his side were standing firm with Chelsea deep in opposition territory.

The visitors had very little of the ball and they frequently fouled Hazard in their attempts to win it back.

Wilfred Ndidi was booked for a poor challenge on Hazard in front of Puel’s technical area and the Belgian almost exacted revenge with a goal.

He pounced on Harry Maguire’s defensive error – a failure to intercept Cesar Azpilicueta’s pass -and shimmied by Morgan before he thundered a shot off the crossbar.

Against the run of play, Ndidi struck a superb 25-yard effort which home goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga did well to turn over.

At the other end, Chelsea’s rapid counter attack concluded with Willian passing at Schmeichel. Again, he should have done better.

Leicester took the lead after 51 minutes following Ricardo Pereira’s strong run down the right. He found James Maddison, who in turn slid the ball to Vardy as Antonio Rudiger slipped, and the striker finished with aplomb for his sixth goal of the season.

Leicester, and Vardy, appeared reinvigorated by the goal. Albrighton crossed menacingly from the right and Kepa parried only as far as Vardy, who improvised to back heel the ball, with Azpilicueta blocking with his knee.

Chelsea had chances to equalise. Hazard had five Leicester players around him as he tried to manufacture a shooting chance from a knock down by substitute Giroud.

Rudiger headed wide from a Pedro corner and Alonso hit a post, with the ball rolling agonisingly across the goal-line, but Leicester’s luck held.