Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas hit back at his critics after scoring twice in extra-time to complete his side’s comeback and fire the Blues into the EFL Cup fourth round at the expense of 10-man Leicester.
Fabregas, making only his second start of the campaign, proved the match-winner after Shinji Okazaki had given Leicester, who had defender Marcin Wasilewski sent off in stoppage time, a commanding two-goal cushion.
Stand-in skipper Gary Cahill began the revival on the stroke of half time, while Chelsea’s defence, which had looked shaky as Leicester surged into the ascendency, continued to repair the damage as Cesar Azpilicueta levelled early in the second half.
Fabregas had been linked with a move to Serie A side AC Milan, although took to social media to deny the rumours. Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has insisted the 29-year-old remains in his long-term plans.
“Hopefully this will shut up a few [people] who were talking rubbish all the time and help me focus on what is important; Chelsea winning and playing well. I know what I can do,” said Fabregas.
“I was happy to play, first of all, from the start and secondly, if I can help the team, fantastic.
“We were feeling quite comfortable but we know they are a dangerous team on the counter and this is what they did – and we paid for it but we showed great character as I think we’ve been showing during the whole season.”
The Foxes opened the scoring on 17 minutes after Chelsea had conceded cheap possession. A quick-fire Leicester attack culminated in full-back Azpilicueta chesting Ahmed Musa’s cross in the vague direction of goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Such defensive uncertainty allowed Okazaki to steal in and head the loose ball over Begovic from an acute angle as Azpilicueta tried in vain to hack the ball clear.
Leicester doubled their lead in the 34th minute as Okazaki latched onto an intelligent pass from Andy King before his drilled shot into the turf bounced over Begovic, who had gone to ground.
Chelsea replied on the stroke of half time as Cahill evaded the attentions of Leicester captain Wes Morgan to head a Fabregas corner across Ron-Robert Zieler and into the net before Danny Drinkwater’s clearance cannoned off David Luiz.
The visitors looked far more enterprising at the start of the second period and levelled in the 49th minute as Azpilicueta lashed a stunning 20-yard volley beyond the helpless Zieler.
Veteran centre-half Wasilewski was shown a second yellow card in the 90th minute for a tussle with substitute Diego Costa, while moments into extra time Fabregas clipped a cool finish past Zieler after a cute backheel from Eden Hazard.
Fabregas wrapped up victory seconds later as he flashed home the rebound after Zieler had flapped at a high ball.