Frank Lampard said managing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the first time was the “stuff of dreams”, despite Wilfred Ndidi’s second-half header earning Leicester City a deserved point.
Chelsea took the lead when 20-year-old midfielder Mason Mount scored a memorable first goal for the Blues after robbing Ndidi of possession just outside the Foxes penalty area before beating Kasper Schmeichel with a low drive.
Lampard’s side started with real intent, Spain forward Pedro volleying into the side-netting and France midfielder N’Golo Kante denied a goal against his former club by Christian Fuchs’ fine challenge either side of Mount’s goal.
Leicester were much better after half-time and secured the point their second-half dominance warranted when Ndidi got between Spain right-back Cesar Azpilicueta and France defender Kurt Zouma to head in from a corner.
Both teams remain without a win, with Leicester on two points from two games, one more than Chelsea.
“It felt great, it is a special moment for me to come back to the club and manage them at Stamford Bridge,” said Lampard, who was appointed Blues boss in the summer.
“For me it is a huge thing, but my focus today was on the match and trying to win.
“Thanks very much to the fans, I appreciate that, but I am here to do a job and here to try and win for the club and we can do better than we did today.”
Despite opening the season with their biggest Old Trafford defeat against Manchester United since 1965, there was a carnival atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge to welcome a Chelsea icon returning to manage the club he spent 13 years playing for.
Lampard’s image adorned the front cover of the programme, while the 41-year-old was greeted by the sight of a huge blue-and-white ‘Welcome Home Super Frank’ banner when he emerged from the tunnel before kick-off.
Flames from black boxes leapt into the sky as Stamford Bridge reverberated to the sound of Chelsea fans singing ‘Super Frank Lampard’.
There were placards and scarves too and it was not long before the veteran of 648 Chelsea appearances was punching the air in celebration after Mount punished Ndidi’s hesitancy after the Nigeria midfielder received the ball from Jonny Evans.
Despite the heavy 4-0 defeat, Chelsea had started the game well at Old Trafford last week, hitting the woodwork twice before falling away badly.
Chelsea faded in this game too, especially in comparison to the aggressive start they made in the upbeat atmosphere created by Lampard’s return – although their midweek Super Cup exertions in Turkey may have been a factor.
While Leicester failed to muster a shot on target in the first-half, Chelsea managed three in the opening seven minutes including Mount’s goal, a superb low finish that left Schmeichel flat-footed.
Fuchs’ challenge to deny his former team-mate Kante was pivotal, while Mount headed another opportunity at Schmeichel before Leicester responded strongly to take the shine off Lampard’s return.
Leicester are without a Premier League win in four games in a run that stretches back to last season, but their impressive second-half showing will leave Brendan Rodgers with optimism for the season ahead.
As poor as the Foxes were in the first half, they dominated after the interval and there will be a touch of disappointment they did not go on to seal victory.
Having managed just one shot in the opening 45 minutes, Leicester had 11 attempts in the second half of the match.
There are now few survivors from their legendary 2015-16 title-winning side, but in James Maddison, Rodgers has a player around whom he can build another impressive Foxes team.
The 22-year-old was the stand-out player in the game, not just content to distribute the ball intelligently but also threaten in the Chelsea box himself.
Maddison, who was called into the England squad last season, rounded Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga but from the byline could not pick out a team-mate to apply the finish.
However he then delivered the corner that Ndidi headed home for the equaliser as Chelsea were caught cold.
The former Norwich player blazed a late chance to win the game over the bar but, while the game seemed to pass title-winning hero Jamie Vardy by, Maddison’s energy and creativity bodes well for Leicester’s future.