Leicester City returned to the top of the Premier League with a 2-1 victory over Chelsea, leaving the defending champions just one point clear of the relegation zone.
Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez did the damage for Claudio Ranieri’s side, both finding the net to take their combined top-flight tally this term to 26 goals – 11 more than the entire Chelsea squad have scored.
The former Fleetwood Town forward made it 14 consecutive Premier League matches in which he has scored or assisted when he steered a volley past Thibaut Courtois shortly after the half-hour mark.
Nemanja Matic hit the crossbar for Chelsea but they fell two goals behind when Mahrez, who supplied the assist for Vardy’s strike, produced a sublime effort early in the second half.
After Diego Costa and Branislav Ivanovic failed to get Jose Mourinho’s team – unchanged after securing Champions League qualification with a win over Porto last week – back in it, Loic Remy pulled one back.
However, Chelsea could not find a second and Leicester extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to nine matches, moving ahead of Manchester City and Arsenal into pole position.
Ranieri kept faith with the same line-up from Leicester’s 3-0 win over Swansea City last weekend and Mahrez – who scored all three goals at the Liberty Stadium – called Courtois into action inside two minutes with a 20-yard strike that proved comfortable for the Chelsea goalkeeper.
The hosts maintained their high-tempo start but suffered a blow when they lost Danny Drinkwater to injury in the 17th minute – Andy King coming on in his place.
Courtois looked nervy when coming to collect crosses, but his team showed more composure to control a greater share of possession.
Chelsea struggled to create any openings, however, and they too were forced into a change in the 31st minute when Eden Hazard limped off and was replaced by Pedro.
Three minutes later Mourinho’s frustration increased as Vardy beat a static Kurt Zouma to Mahrez’s cross and sent a first-time volley beyond Courtois, scoring for the sixth consecutive Premier League home match.
Chelsea came close to a rapid equaliser, but Matic’s looping header clipped the crossbar on its way behind for a goal-kick.
Mourinho’s side were unable to get a shot on target before the interval and three minutes after the restart Leicester doubled their advantage.
Mahrez controlled Albrighton’s cross exquisitely before shimmying away from Cesar Azpilicueta and curling a fine finish into the opposite corner.
Chelsea’s first shot on target finally came in the 62nd minute, but, after being released by Cesc Fabregas, Costa was denied by Kasper Schmeichel.
The Dane came close to undoing his good work seconds later when he failed to claim Willian’s corner. However, Ivanovic did not react quickly enough to convert at the back post.
Mourinho had switched to a three-man defence and Remy headed home from a Pedro cross to halve the deficit with 13 minutes remaining, but they could not salvage a result and remain in 16th place.
Key Opta stats:
– Leicester have scored in every Premier League game this season.
– Jamie Vardy has now scored or assisted in 14 consecutive Premier League games.
– The England striker has also now scored in six consecutive home Premier League appearances.
– That was Chelsea and Jose Mourinho’s ninth defeat in the Premier League this season – the same number as in 2013-14 (6) and 2014-15 (3) combined.
– Indeed, the Blues have lost 9+ of their opening 16 top-flight games for the first time since 1978-79, a season in which they were relegated.
– No team with 35+ points after the first 16 games of a Premier League season has finished outside the top four – Leicester have 35.
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