Chelsea took advantage of a brief lull in the fighting between Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho to play a football match at Stamford Bridge.
But if Conte was hoping the contest with Leicester would bring him some respite from the fractiousness that is lingering around him and the club, this goalless draw with a purring Leicester side was not the game to do it.
Conte’s side were comprehensively outplayed by Claude Puel’s visitors for two thirds of the game and were lucky to escape with a point. Even when Leicester were reduced to 10 men in the 67th minute courtesy of Chilwell’s second yellow card, Chelsea rarely looked like breaking them down.
Eden Hazard’s frustration was symbolic of Chelsea’s afternoon, as the Blues missed a chance to make up ground at the top
Victor Moses lies in a heap as referee Mike Jones produces a red card for Leicester full-back Ben Chilwell
The youngster was given his marching order after picking up his second yellow card of the evening at Stamford Bridge
Foxes goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel leaps across his goal to block a shot heading for the bottom corner
Antonio Conte soon became his animated self on the touchline, barking instructions to his players
The Italian cut a frustrated figure in the first half as Leicester outplayed his side at Stamford Bridge
They are without a win in four games now and they left the field to yells of dismay from the crowd.
The result will do little to lift the air of siege that has settled around a manager who could do no wrong in his first season in west London but who has been a restless, fretful discontented presence during this campaign and has allowed himself to become thoroughly rattled by Mourinho’s expertly aimed barbs.
The build-up to this match had seen him fending off suggestions that he would leave the club at the end of the season and that either Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri or Luis Enrique had already been lined up to take over from him. The way his team played during this game suggested that all the off-the-field distractions may be taking their toll.
PLAYER RATINGS, LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
CHELSEA: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill (Christensen 33), Rudiger, Moses, Bakayoko, Kante, Fabregas (Willian 58), Alonso, Hazard (Pedro 58), Morata
SUBS NOT USED: Cabellero, Zappacosta, Batshuayi, David Luiz
LEICESTER: Schmeichel, Amartey, Dragovic, Maguire, Chilwell, Mahrez, James, Ndidi, Albrighton, Okazaki (Fuchs 73), Vardy
SUBS NOT USED: Gray, Iheanacho, Hamer, Slimani, Iborra, Benalouane
BOOKED: Chilwell, James, Okazaki
SENT OFF: Chilwell
In this meeting of the two most recent Premier League champions, Leicester had begun playing as though it was they, not Chelsea, who were the current title holders. For much of the first half, they turned the clock back to the glory days of that fairy-tale season under Claudio Ranieri.
They overwhelmed Chelsea with the pace and guile of their play. Conte’s team struggled to cope with the combination of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez in particular. Their understanding seemed telepathic. The opening 45 minutes featured a succession of Leicester chances interrupted occasionally by a Chelsea foray upfield.
All the fluency and the technique belonged to the visitors. Chelsea looked slow and cumbersome and when they did have the ball, even Eden Hazard was careless in possession. Much of what he did was sublime. It always is. But after he had worked his magic with the ball, he too often gave it away.
Austrian defender Aleksandar Dragovic curls opens up his body to curl a shot under pressure from the Blues back line
Vardy rues the missed opportunity as Leicester threaten to break the deadlock against the reigning champions
Eden Hazard holds off pressure from winger Marc Albrighton while attempting to get Chelsea on the attack
Shinji Okazaki lays on the touchline after going close to scoring in the opening stages of the match
Leicester should have taken the lead after eight minutes when Chilwell ran on to a long diagonal ball on the left flank and cut sharply inside. He dragged a cross back from the byline into the path of Okazaki but he could only lift it over the bar from close range when he should have scored.
Leicester spent the next few minutes peppering the Chelsea goal. Vardy flicked out a foot to steer a long ball from Chilwell into the sidenetting and then, a minute later, ran on to a through ball from James and drilled a shot across goal but just wide of the right hand post.
Leicester had another fine chance to open the scoring in the 12th minute when a corner from the right was allowed to bounce in the area. Ndidi guided the ball goalwards. Courtois flung himself to his right and palmed the ball away. Chilwell pounced on the rebound but his shot was blocked by Alonso at close range.
Only Fabregas offered much in the way of creative play going forward for Chelsea. Schmeichel saved well from him at his near post but it was not long before the home side were on the defensive again. This time, they were indebted to a fine saving tackle from Cahill that denied Mahrez after he had played a clever 1-2 with Okazaki.
Conte warmly greeted his opposition Claude Puel as the pair took to the technical area prior to kick-off
Stamford Bridge soon filled up in its traditional blue colour as supporters packed into the stadium and the flags came out
Cahill went off soon afterwards with what looked like a hamstring injury and ten minutes into the second half, his replacement, Christensen, was at the centre of a penalty controversy. Mahrez burst into the box and even though Christensen did not make a tackle, Mahrez tumbled over him and Leicester bayed for a spot kick. Referee Mike Jones waved play on. It was the correct decision.
Mahrez was aggrieved by the decision and a minute later, his search for justice nearly brought a goal. He ran across the edge of the box from right to left and unleashed a shot at the Chelsea goal. It took a heavy deflection off Alonso that left Courtois rooted to the spot but it bounced just wide of the left hand post.
Leicester continued to dominate but Chelsea finally began to gain a foothold in the game when Conte brought on Willian and Pedro for Hazard and Costa and 22 minutes from the end, they were given another boost when Chilwell was sent off for second booking in six minutes, a studs-up tackle on Moses that might have been a straight red.
Chelsea pressed for a winner in the dying minutes and Schmeichel saved well from a bouncing Alonso free kick but Chelsea never really looked like getting the goal they needed. The air of gloom and infighting around Stamford Bridge lingers on.