LEICESTER – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte warned the rest of the Premier League that double player of the year N’Golo Kante is only going to get better.
The combative French midfielder won the PFA and Football Writers’ award last season after his performances inspired Chelsea to the Championship.
It was his second title in two seasons in England after he played a key role in Leicester’s victory the year before.
But, Kante has not been noted for his goal-scoring prowess since arriving in England.
His strike at the King Power Stadium – Alvaro Morata getting Chelsea’s other goal and Jamie Vardy getting one back from the penalty spot for the 2016 champions – was only his third since he joined Leicester in 2015.
It sealed Chelsea’s third successive win as the current champions continued to recover from their opening-day horror loss to Burnley.
“For sure, it was a good day for us and a good day for Alvaro Morata,” said Conte.
“It is always good for a striker to score. For us as a team, it is important to see we are improving, but if Morata scores, I am also happy to see that.
“N’Golo Kante played an amazing game, but we are used to seeing that because he is a fantastic player.
“He makes good runs and makes good quality passes, and now there is quality in his finishing.
“It is very important to see that this player is improving step by step, and N’Golo Kante is a top player.”
Conte was also delighted to have Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard back – he came on as a substitute – after he was ruled out of the beginning of the campaign as he recovered from ankle surgery.
“It was great to see Eden Hazard back, but it will take time for him to be 100% again,” said Conte.
“But we are very happy because we know the importance of this player for us. I’m pleased for him, and it’s great to see him again.
“We had a bad start against Burnley (they lost 3-2 at home) and some other difficulties, but three wins in a row is important for the players because they are doing very well.
“In England it is not easy to win, but I have good players. They played like champions today, and their mentality was very good and very strong.”
The defeat leaves Leicester just a place above the relegation zone, with a solitary victory from their opening four matches.
The home side were the better team after pulling a goal back, but could not fashion an equalising goal.
“We have to stay positive as a group because we knew that the first six games were going to be difficult as we play last year’s top four and champions,” said Leicester manager Craig Shakespeare.
“Performance-wise, I though it was okay in terms of our commitment. We showed great endeavour to go right to the end of the game.
“When we went 2-0 down, experience tells you that a team like Chelsea will make it very hard to get back in it.
“Past history tells you that Chelsea might go on and win it three or four, but we showed a lot character and a lot of resilience.
“At the moment, the big moments aren’t going our way. We had a three-on-one counter-attack and a minute later, they go down the other end and score.”