Belfast Telegraph

Chelsea dig deep to set up Fab finish to see off Leicester

EFL Cup: Leicester 2-4 Chelsea

By Jon Culley

After going two goals behind inside 34 minutes, Chelsea responded with sufficient determination to rescue a third-round EFL Cup tie they might easily have allowed to slip away, forcing extra-time after an exhilarating contest at the King Power Stadium and winning it with two goals in the first four of the additional 30 minutes.

Leicester had been reduced to 10 men at the end of normal time after defender Marcin Wasilewski was sent off.

Disadvantaged in that way against an opponent whose play had gained momentum through the second half, Leicester would have found it tough to survive the full period of extra-time.

As it was, Chelsea effectively drew any sting the home side might have had left when Cesc Fabregas scored in the 92nd and 94th minutes.

The Spaniard swept the ball into the bottom left-hand corner of the Leicester goal after a backheel pass by substitute Eden Hazard had wrong-footed goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler, then stepped up to fire home again after a cross from the right ballooned off a defender before Danny Drinkwater headed it straight to him.

Wasilewski's red card almost certainly tipped the balance after Chelsea had finished normal time looking stronger.

The Polish centre-back, making his first appearance of the season, saw red after leading with his arm in an aerial challenge on Chelsea substitute Diego Costa. He had been booked earlier but the offence was worthy of a straight red in any event.

The Foxes will feel they let an excellent chance to reach the last 16 get away from them after Chelsea had paid dearly for defensive errors by going two goals behind.

Like his opposite number, his fellow Italian Antonio Conte, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri had made seven changes. But where the Blues, with two exceptions fielding the line-up that started against Bristol Rovers in the last round, only fleetingly clicked in the opening period, the Foxes' changes slipped easily into the roles assigned.

Even without Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez they had pace out wide and through the middle in Jeffrey Schlupp, Demarai Gray and Ahmed Musa, the £16.5 million Ghanaian striker who was starting for only the second time.

They allowed Chelsea no time on the ball and, when the mistakes came, the punishment was ruthless as Marcos Alonso, the £23million former Fiorentina left-back making his debut, and then Pedro were both guilty of giving the ball away deep inside their own half.

Both errors resulted in goals for Shinji Okazaki, who nipped in as Asmir Begovic and defender David Luiz dithered to head the ball over the line in the 17th minute and bounced a shot over the head of the Chelsea goalkeeper 17 minutes later.

Both times it needed to be confirmed that the ball had crossed the line before being cleared from under the crossbar, though the first instinct on each occasion was that it had.

The night seemed to be building as another worrisome one for Conte. Chelsea had put the ball in the Leicester net twice but each was disallowed for an infringement. Otherwise, apart from a headed chance wasted by Michy Batshuayi, they had shown little threat.

Yet when Cahill scored from a Fabregas corner in the added minutes of the first half - this time requiring electronic evidence to confirm the identity of the scorer after Drinkwater's attempted clearance on the line bounced back into the net off Luiz - Chelsea unexpectedly had something to build on.

And build on it they did, Cesar Azpilicueta (left) levelling the scores with a superb volley from the edge of the box just five minutes after the restart.

It made for a pulsating second half, with both managers looking to their benches for a matchwinner in normal time. Costa, on for Ruben Loftus-Cheek, perhaps should have been Chelsea's, the Spaniard sliding the ball wide when Luiz's ball over the top left him with only Zieler to beat.

Leicester threw on Leonardo Ulloa and Vardy, but it was Musa, just before he gave way, who might have edged the Foxes back in front, shooting into the side netting.

It was Fabregas, in the end, who had the final say.

LEICESTER: Zieler, Simpson, Wasilewski, Morgan, Chilwell, Gray (Amartey 90), Drinkwater, King, Schlupp, Okazaki (Ulloa 75), Musa (Vardy 76).

Not used: Hamer, Benalouane, Mahrez, Kaputska. Goals: Okazaki (17, 34)

Red card: Wasilewski (89)

CHELSEA: Begovic, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz, Alonso, Moses, Fabregas, Matic, Pedro (Hazard 89), Loftus-Cheek (Costa 67), Batshuayi (Chalobah 80).

Not used: Courtois, Aina, Kante, Willian.

Goals: Cahill (45), Azpilicueta (49), Fabregas (92, 94)

Man of the match: Fabregas

Match rating: 8/10

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