Frank Lampard can feel the momentum and his first season in charge of Chelsea is poised for glory. No matter the priority of achieving a Champions League final, which sees the Premier League’s impressive victory over Manchester City last Thursday, his team is now in the final four of the FA Cup.
Lampard won the lot as a Chelsea player, including four FA Cups, and how he would love to claim his first silver piece as manager in the final of this competition at Wembley in August.
Ross Barkley shot the possibility with the sole objective of an absorbing game after being sent as a substitute for the second half. Chelsea had been poor in the first half, but they improved a lot after the interval to keep a good mood in the bubbly club.
Off the field, they’ve invested £ 89 million in Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech for next season and in that they can feel things coming together after the restart of action. Barkley’s finale was a beauty, turned low and for the first time from an angle to the right of the penalty area, and meant more frustration for Brendan Rodgers and Leicester.
They were skilled in the first half but couldn’t find a reward and, after fading in the second, they know it’s three games without a win since the restart and more broadly only two wins in the last ten. The focus will now turn to pressure for a Champions League final, which would be an incredible achievement, but they can feel the thunder of the chase group, not only with Chelsea, but also with Wolves and Manchester United.
Rodgers had mentioned the Leicester Carabao Cup semi-final loss to Aston Villa before the start, how much that loss had hurt in January and his players started offended by the memory. There was an easy balance in his 4-3-3 system, pace and bite, and Chelsea had to stop a series of early lunges.
One of the characteristics of the summer soccer after the closing are the drinks breaks. It is now a four-quarter game, and while it was debatable whether they were needed on a windy day at King Power, Leicester reached first in descent.
They squeezed the front foot and were routinely the first to hit the ball, especially when Youri Tielemans stepped forward to intercept a pass from Billy Gilmour destined for Mason Mount. Tielemans advanced and fired low around the corner; Willy Caballero got out to turn him around.
Ben Chilwell’s free kick shot was a weapon for Leicester. He had chosen Commander Wilfred Ndidi in the 13th minute only for the midfielder to head straight for Caballero. Ndidi had found space, but not as much as Jonny Evans would in 29 minutes. The central half got Antonio Rüdiger to run to Chilwell’s ball only to take his eyes off the target. I should have done better.
Chilwell attracted attention in the first half, as his speed on the flank from the left side or in defensive transitions was a problem for Chelsea and Leicester had a couple of blinks on that channel before the break. First, Harvey Barnes got the ball running after Rüdiger jumped on Tielemans only to hit high and then Jamie Vardy dragged very well after running to a Barnes pass.
Lampard made six changes to the lineup that had beaten City: Rodgers made four of the draw with Brighton; James Maddison was out with a hip problem, and Chelsea struggled to make progress in the first half. However, apparently they created the clearest opportunity and only Kasper Schmeichel’s reflexes kept Christian Pulisic away.
All that was needed was a penetrating pass from Mount in the 31st minute and a sharp run by Pulisic into the box. The American lunged from left to right to open a streak of space and his upward momentum was hit hard. Schmeichel was just like that.
Lampard headed to his right flank at halftime, replacing Reece James and Mount with César Azpilicueta and Barkley, while also trading Gilmour for Mateo Kovacic to the left of midfield. Something had to be done and Chelsea were firmer since the restart, occupying higher starting positions and leading the game to Leicester. Now the aggression belonged to them.
Tammy Abraham had the ball in the net only to be properly removed for offside before Barkley made the difference, stealing from behind Ndidi to sweep into Willian’s center before Evans could cross. It was Barkley’s fourth goal of the season; They have all come in the domestic cups.
Leicester never seemed to find the equalizer to force overtime, though Caglar Soyuncu made his way to Azpilicueta and opened towards the end after a Caballero fin and Ndidi was off target with a side foot for the first time. Barkley could have added a second solo to choose the wrong option after a four-on-two break in the 89th minute and then watched Schmeichel save him when he got the ball back.