Saturday January 13 2018

Conte frustrated as 10-man Leicester hold Chelsea

Chelsea's Italian head coach Antonio Conte

Chelsea's Italian head coach Antonio Conte gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on January 13, 2018. AFP PHOTO  

By AFP

Antonio Conte's problems mounted as spluttering Chelsea were held to a dour 0-0 draw by 10-man Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Conte's side produced a limp display that could easily have seen them beaten by a Leicester team who missed a host of first-half chances.
Even when Leicester left-back Ben Chilwell was sent off midway through the second half for two bookings, the champions were unable to snatch a winner.
Chelsea remain third -- 15 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City -- and have now drawn their last four matches in all competitions.

It capped a difficult week for Chelsea boss Conte, who could be in the final months of his turbulent reign despite last season's title triumph.
Responding to a report claiming he will leave at the end of the season, Conte this week said "everything is possible" regarding his future.
Conte has been linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain as the Italian's relationship with the Chelsea board grows increasingly fractious following disagreements over transfers and his feud with Diego Costa, which led to the striker joining Atletico Madrid.
Chelsea are reported to be considering Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri and former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique as potential replacements for the 48-year-old.

Leicester City's English midfielder Matty James

Leicester City's English midfielder Matty James (L) and Chelsea's Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas (R) go for the ball during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on January 13, 2018. AFP PHOTO

Given the speculation surrounding their manager, it was intriguing to note the response of Chelsea fans.
Having grown used to big-name managers coming and going in the era of owner Roman Abramovich, they hardly seemed heartbroken at the possibility of another change on the bench.
When a chant of Conte's name emanated from the stands soon after kick-off, it quickly petered out and the Italian responded with only a bashful clap towards the supporters.

Shinji Okazaki had a chance to further dampen the muted atmosphere in the eighth minute when the Leicester striker slid in to meet Chilwell's cross, but he couldn't control a close-range shot that ballooned over the bar.
Conte has reportedly frustrated some of his players with his intense personality and demanding training sessions and their inconsistent performances this season have added fuel to that fire.

Lethargic Chelsea
When Jamie Vardy fired narrowly wide from a tight angle moments later, Conte wore a thunderous expression on the touchline as he contemplated Chelsea's lethargic start.
It took a superb save from Thibaut Courtois to prevent Leicester taking the lead their pressure deserved as the Belgian plunged to his right to claw away a Wilfred Ndidi header.

Chelsea threatened when Eden Hazard teed up Cesc Fabregas for a powerful drive that Kasper Schmeichel palmed away.
But misplaced pa