Chelsea bounced back from their FA Cup final heartache in perfect style on Tuesday night, seeing off top-four rivals Leicester City with a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge to boost their Champions League ambitions.
Leicester got the better of Thomas Tuchel’s side just three days ago to secure their first ever FA Cup triumph, yet Tuesday’s encounter was perhaps just as important, with both sides looking to bolster their Champions League qualification hopes.
After the disappointment of Saturday’s loss, the home side appeared keen to exact revenge in front of the returning home support, as they made a blistering start in the opening few minutes, former Foxes man Ben Chilwell going close with a low, drilled effort, while Christian Pulisic also fired narrowly over the bar.
That breathless opening continued as Timo Werner twice had a goal disallowed, the German first denied for a clear offside after a neat finish into the bottom corner, while his second effort was adjudged to have struck his arm, as he attempted to scramble the ball over the goal line.
That VAR decision unsurprisingly proved unpopular among the home support, as the Blues headed in at the break having somehow failed to take the lead in a half that also worryingly saw midfield anchor N’Golo Kante withdrawn through injury.
Wembley hero Kasper Schmeichel had continued his fine form in that first-half, yet could do little to prevent the home side going ahead almost straight after the interval, Antonio Rudiger showing his forward line how it’s done to bundle home at the back post from a delightful Chilwell corner.
Leicester’s difficult night got even tougher with 25 minutes to go, the ever-dangerous Werner drawing a foul from Wesley Fofana inside the penalty area, Blues midfielder Jorginho netting from the resulting spot-kick in his typically ultra-composed manner.
Having looked in complete control, Tuchel’s men then gifted the visitors a route back into the game, the in-form Kelechi Iheanacho turning home after Wilfried Ndidi had dispossessed Mateo Kovacic on the edge of the area.
With the game finely poised, Leicester then squandered a guilt-edged opportunity to draw level, former Newcastle United man Ayoze Perez inexplicably blazing over after an excellent pull-back from Ricardo Pereira.
The Portugal international then sparked something of a brawl late on after a late challenge on former teammate Chilwell, as tempers perhaps understandably began to flare in what was a potentially pivotal top-four counter.
In the end, it was the hosts who managed to hang on and gain a huge advantage heading into the final day, with Tuchel left delighted with his side’s performance, as well as to see the club’s supporters back in the stadium.
“It was a strong performance and well deserved performance. No time for celebration, the job is not done yet, two more games to go. Very happy to play in front of supporters, it was a huge difference today,” Tuchel told BBC Sport.
“On Sunday we had the post match talk and you go on from there. Today is what we demand, played with high intensity and aggression and the team did very good.
“It is a bit frustrating but we speak about doing it again, go into the box, stay patient and play with a cool head. Keep the fire up and we played a high intensity game.
“We defended so strong, did not give many chances but escaped with a deserved win. It is a different game with fans.”
Chelsea will be looking to seal their place in the top-four against Aston Villa on Sunday, before taking on Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League final on 29 May.