Antonio Rudiger’s double earns Chelsea a point at Leicester
Antonio Rudiger made light of Chelsea’s failed striker search after his brace earned a 2-2 draw at Leicester.
The defender’s goals – his first for the Blues since October 2018 – ensured Frank Lampard’s fourth-placed side stayed eight points behind the Foxes.
Chelsea, who had their transfer ban lifted last month, failed to make a signing in January while forward Tammy Abraham played through the pain of an ankle injury at the King Power Stadium.
Ben Chilwell’s second-half strike had looked to have eased the Foxes’ pain after a last-gasp exit to Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup semi-final on Tuesday.
He put the hosts 2-1 ahead after in-form Harvey Barnes had cancelled out Rudiger’s opener.
The hosts missed the chance to move 11 points clear of Chelsea but remain third, and are well on course to reach the Champions League.
They had to cling on in the first half, though, as the visitors dominated without reward.
Callum Hudson-Odoi missed his kick, Abraham just failed to get a touch on Reece James’ teasing cross and Mason Mount shot narrowly over.
Abraham wanted a penalty after 20 minutes when he went down trying to turn Caglar Soyuncu but, after a VAR check, his claims were ignored.
Sluggish Leicester were second best and lived dangerously but Willy Caballero needed to be alert to deny Jamie Vardy after 25 minutes.
Cesar Azpilicueta’s ball was intercepted by Ayoze Perez who chested it down to Vardy only for Caballero to thwart the striker with his legs.
The chance woke the Foxes from their slumber and, while Chelsea still looked slicker, Barnes ballooned over from 15 yards.
Chilwell’s drive gave Caballero brief concern before the Blues settled again, although Hamza Choudhury headed wide in injury time.
Chelsea got the opener their first-half efforts deserved just 57 seconds after the break.
It was too easy for the visitors as Mount’s far-post corner was headed in by Rudiger – on his 100th Chelsea appearance.
Yet their lead lasted just eight minutes, with Barnes grabbing a fourth goal in six outings when he cut inside and his shot arched over Caballero after clipping James.
And 10 minutes later the Foxes completed the turnaround.
Caballero started his first league game of the season after the error-prone Kepa Arrizabalaga had exhausted Lampard’s patience.
However, he went walkabout searching for Chilwell’s cross and struggled to get back into position when Youri Tielemans returned the ball for the England left-back to sweep in at the far post.
Tielemans’ drive was then turned away by Caballero before another twist 19 minutes from time.
Ricardo Pereira fouled Mount and the midfielder delivered a perfect free-kick for Rudiger to plant a brilliant header into the top corner from 10 yards.
Leicester should have won it, though. Jonny Evans headed well wide before Barnes missed a golden chance with 11 minutes left.
Vardy’s cross found the winger unmarked with just Caballero to beat but he could only roll the ball inches wide of the post.