Goalscorer: Jamie Vardy 51
Chelsea: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Marcos Alonso, Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, N’Golo Kante, Jorginho (Cesc Fabregas 75), Mateo Kovacic (Ruben Loftus-Cheek 61), Willian (Olivier Giroud 61), Eden Hazard, Pedro
Leicester City: Kasper Schmeichel, Ben Chilwell, Harry Maguire, Wes Morgan, Ricardo Pereira, Hamza Choudhury, Wilfred Ndidi, Nampalys Mendy, Marc Albrighton, James Maddison (Demarai Gray 82), Jamie Vardy (Kelechi Iheanacho 84)
Referee: Lee Probert, Attendance: 40,558
This was Chelsea’s final home match of 2018 and they were defending an eight-month unbeaten home record at Stamford Bridge. The Blues were facing a Leicester City side that were looking short on both form and harmony. Reports had emerged in the week that manager Claude Puel had fallen out with his players, with star striker Jamie Vardy admitting in the media that Puel’s tactical style was not working for the way he wanted to run in behind opposition defenders.
Chelsea dominated the bulk of the first half as expected but didn’t take the opportunities they created. The first chance came through Brazilian winger Willian. He reached David Luiz’s long pass as Ricardo Pereira dithered but passed up the invitation, sending the ball wide as Kasper Schmeichel came out to meet him and close down the angle.
Next, Pedro flicked a header wide of the post from a delicate corner by Willian. Then, Eden Hazard, playing in a false no.9 position, nearly took advantage of a mistake by Harry Maguire. Fortunately for Maguire, Hazard smacked his shot against the crossbar with Schmeichel well-beaten. The search for his 100th Chelsea goal was going to have to wait for a few extra days.
Leicester had defended generally well with Pereira impressing in particular and their first shot on-target nearly saw them ahead before half-time. Wilfred Ndidi tried his luck from distance and his powerful strike needed a strong palm over the crossbar from the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Maurizio Sarri’s side were looking to pile the pressure on in the second half but they fell behind to the 2016 champions after 51 minutes. A slick passing move involving Pereira and James Maddison saw the midfielder free Vardy into some space. With virtually his first opportunity of the entire game, Vardy did what he does best. He stole half a yard on Cesar Azpilicueta and flashed an instant shot beyond Arrizabalaga. It was the perfect way for the forward to mark his 250th appearance for the club with his 95th goal for the Foxes.
Leicester had begun the second half with real intent and nearly doubled their lead moments later. Vardy tried a backheel after Arrizabalaga had spilled a cross. This time, Azpilicueta was there to deny the forward whose optimistic calls for a handball against the Spaniard fell on deaf ears. Sarri brought Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Olivier Giroud on in an attempt to rescue a point but chances were limited to Marcos Alonso striking a post and Schmeichel saving well from Hazard at his near post.
Leicester held on for their first win in 11 attempts in the capital and followed this up with a Boxing Day victory days later over reigning champions Manchester City. Puel was sacked in February 2019 but he could hold the proud distinction of being the only Premier League boss to beat Sarri on home soil in the 2018-2019 season. Chelsea recovered from a mid-season stutter to finish third.