Outstanding Thibaut Courtois saves a scoreless draw for lacklustre Chelsea
Chelsea were held to a goalless draw for the third time in succession in all competitions as they were held 0-0 by 10-man Leicester City in a vibrant Premier League encounter at Stamford Bridge.
Antonio Conte's side contrived to make the visitors look world-class in the first half and matters didn't improve after the break. A chorus of boos echoed around the ground when Conte hooked Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas before the hour mark, and while replacements Willian and Pedro certainly livened up Chelsea's play, even after the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Ben Chilwell was sent off in the 68th minute, the Blues could not find a way past Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel.
With Leicester enjoying way too much possession and pushing Chelsea back for long periods of the game, it was important that the Blues defence was able to stand firm. While they rode their luck on occasion, committed blocking tackles were the order of the day and when they didn't work, quality goalkeeping saved the day for Conte.
A goalless draw at home to Leicester isn't good enough, and given Chelsea had a man advantage for the final 20+ minutes of the game, it's even worse. Conte's current penchant to start with a five-man midfield isn't cutting it, and with Hazard being continually closed down, the Blues found themselves on the back foot for long periods of the match, in which they struggled to contain effervescent Leicester duo Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Conte was booed by sections of the crowd for replacing Hazard and Fabregas, but it was to the Italian's credit that he made the substitutions when he did and switched to 4-3-3 as neither player was making an impression on the game. Criticism for the Chelsea manager is due though for initially persisting with a 3-5-2 set-up which has made the Blues look increasingly toothless as opposing teams quickly work out that if Hazard is neutralised there is no additional threat from the advanced midfield positions.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 8 -- Had to be at his world-class best to ensure Leicester didn't win the game. An outstanding early save on a shot by Wifred Ndidi, coupled with excellent positional sense and distribution, made for a man-of-the-match performance which just about sums up the unexpected balance of this game.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- Arguably with the easiest task of Chelsea's backline, Azpi always looked comfortable up against Marc Albrighton and Chilwell. Took greater responsibility for monitoring Vardy and Shinji Okazaki when Gary Cahill left the pitch injured, and assuming the captain's role came easily to the Spain international.
DF Gary Cahill, 5 -- Made some decent blocking tackles, but looked leggy up against Vardy and was forced off in the 33rd minute with a hamstring injury trying to keep pace with the Leicester striker.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- With Mahrez in sparkling form, this was a true test of the Germany international's defensive credentials and the 24-year old generally acquitted himself well, though there were a couple of nervy moments when he couldn't handle the Leicester man's trickery on the ball.
MF Victor Moses, 5 -- Allowed the game to pass him by for long periods and offered little in the way of creativity when in possession, which included the occasion he was on the ball and Chilwell came in to make his red-card tackle.
MF Marcos Alonso, 5 -- There was a moment in injury time at the end of the match when the Chelsea crowd held its breath as Alonso sized up a free kick. The Blues wing-back struck the ball sweetly, but Schmeichel made a world-class diving save. Had he scored, Alonso would have been man of the match, but it wasn't to be and there was little else to commend the wing-back on in a generally lacklustre display.
MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- As expected, up against his former club, Kante put in a tigerish display and it was just as well as he did the work of three men in Chelsea's midfield, pulling up the slack of Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko when Leicester pressed. Continuously having to tackle, an overzealous challenge on Okazaki brought the France international a yellow card.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 5 - Unfortunately, Bakayoko has become a target for abuse from small sections of the Chelsea crowd. Against Leicester, the 23-year old struggled to impose himself in midfield and a couple of mistimed passes won't help matters with the boo brigade.
FW Cesc Fabregas, 5 -- Brought a great save out of Schmeichel early in the game, but only showed flickers of skill and his delivery from a series of corners Chelsea won was frustratingly poor. Replaced before the hour mark.
FW Eden Hazard, 6 -- Showed very early flashes of skill that troubled Leicester's backline, but after the opening 10 minutes, he was closed out of the game. Doesn't look to be 100-percent fit following a recent calf injury. How Hazard will respond to being hooked before the hour will be interesting -- a cue perhaps for stories linking him with a move to Real Madrid once again.
FW Alvaro Morata, 5 -- Another blank for Morata whose cause wasn't helped at the outset by Conte's initial tactics. Even when flanked by Willian and Pedro after the Italian's tactical change, the striker lacked the imposing swagger and confidence to really get engaged with the game. A late yellow for a cynical foul just about summed up the Spaniard's world of pain at the moment.
DF Andreas Christensen, 7 -- Thrust unexpectedly into the fray when Cahill was injured, Christensen had no problem settling immediately into the game and Chelsea arguably looked more solid at the back against Vardy and Mahrez with the 21-year old in their ranks.
FW Willian, 6 -- Gave Chelsea more impetus going forward, which wasn't difficult, but failed to find a way through Leicester's well-organised backline. Perhaps if he'd won the argument with Alonso over who should take the last ditch free kick, he could have been the Blues' hero for the day, but it wasn't to be.
MF Pedro, 6 -- Like Willian, it was extra craft with no end product from Pedro, who found Leicester players blocking his path whenever he had the ball.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco