Leicester City defeats Chelsea 2-1 to go top of the EPL
Reigning champion Chelsea languishing in 16th place
It was the side that last season fought a desperate struggle to stay in the English Premier League. Its Thai billionaire owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, then sacked the manager who had guided the team to survival.
Nearly half the way through the 2015-2016 season this is the side that surprisingly tops the table, despite most experts predicting that Leicester City would be certainties to be relegated.
A season of struggle was expected under experienced Italian manager Claudio Ranieri, who succeeded Nigel Pearson in the summer.
How wrong were the experts?
Leicester went two points clear of Arsenal at the EPL summit Monday with a deserved 2-1 victory over Chelsea as the champion slumped to a ninth league defeat.
The loss leaves Jose Mourinho’s side just a point above the relegation zone, a decline that’s almost as remarkable as Leicester’s ascent to the pinnacle of English football, and it will raise further questions over the Portuguese’s tenure at Chelsea.
As so often this season this was a victory inspired by the goals and attacking combination play of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
It was Mahrez who set up Vardy’s 15th league goal of the season to give Leicester a deserved first-half lead as the home team tore into the champions on an electric night at the King Power Stadium.
Early in the second half, the supercharged Algerian extended Leicester’s lead with a sumptuous curling shot after some trademark trickery had provided him space to glimpse Thibaut Courtois’ goal.
Mahrez’s goal at last prompted a response from a Chelsea. Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel brilliantly saved from Diego Costa, while Branislav Ivanovic had an effort cleared off the line.
With 13 minutes remaining, substitute Loic Remy’s close-range header set up a tense finish but Leicester somehow held on to complete a remarkable victory.
For Ranieri the victory must have had that extra sweet taste – he was sacked by Chelsea in 2004, and replaced by Mourinho in the Portuguese’s first spell at Stamford Bridge.
“It’s (a) magical time – we must continue to work hard because I don’t want to wake up, I want to continue to dream with our fans,” Ranieri told Sky Sports.
If Ranieri doesn’t want to wake up from his magical dream, Mourinho must be wondering just when Chelsea’s nightmare is going to end.
And the former Real Madrid and Inter Milan coach didn’t hold back in criticizing his players, in particular attacking players like Oscar, Costa and Belgium international Eden Hazard, who came off in the first half with an injury.
“At the moment it costs us a lot to score goals,” a clearly frustrated Mourinho told reporters.
“Look through our numbers and it is clear it is difficult to score goals. Why? Because the players whose job it is to score goals aren’t.”
Mourinho even questioned whether some of the players had the stomach for the position Chelsea were no win.
“I would face matches in a different manner if I was a player,” he added. “I have to look at some of the players’ eyes and to see if they feel Chelsea in the way I do. They have to react in a different way.”