Chelsea went top of the Premier League after coming from behind to beat Leeds United in a commanding victory in front of 2,000 fans at Stamford Bridge as it finished Chelsea 3-1 Leeds.
Although former Blue Patrick Bamford gave Leeds an early lead against the run of play, Chelsea hit back thanks to Olivier Giroud before half-time. The home side dominated the second half and took the lead thanks to a towering header from Kurt Zouma, before Pulisic’s late close-range finish meant Chelsea 3-1 Leeds sent Frank Lampard’s side top of the table.
With 50-years worth of history and a rivalry finally reignited once more, Leeds’ visit to Stamford Bridge was always going to be more than just a normal game. With the backdrop of 2,000 fans being welcomed back into the ground and the tension between Marcelo Bielsa and Frank Lampard from the pair’s previous Championship Playoff meeting, this was a game with added spice.
In terms of on the pitch decisions, Lampard’s main choice was whether or not to stick with Olivier Giroud after the Frenchman bagged 4 goals in midweek against Sevilla. Although it may not sound like much of a decision, with the short turn around between games and Giroud’s lack of recent minutes the choice was maybe not as straight forward.
Unsurprisingly, Giroud was joined by and Mason Mount and the return of Timo Werner in 8 changes from midweek.
Leeds went into the game with a decent run of form behind them, picking up 4 points from their last 2 games and playing some exciting attacking football. In their short time back in the Premier League, the Yorkshire side have lived up to their name as being energetic, relentless, fearless and seriously entertaining.
The home side were definitely in better form though, unbeaten in 13 games and having not lost in the league since the second game of the season, the Blue’s had all the right to be very confident going into the game.
In a frantic start to the game, Chelsea could have easily found themselves 2-0 up within the first 2 minutes as Hakim Ziyech forced a good save from Illan Meslier’s legs. Giroud then nearly took full advantage of the following corner as his header was just wide of the near post.
Instead, Leeds found themselves ahead after just 3 minutes. Following some direct counter-attacking football, Kalvin Phillips’ stunning through ball saw a mix up between Eduoard Mendy and Kurt Zouma pounced upon as ex-Chelsea player Patrick Bamford slotted into an empty net.
One of the most entertaining 10 minutes of Premier League football ever was completed as Timo Werner missed an open goal following another Chelsea corner. Giroud’s header looked destined to find the far corner before Werner attempted to flick the ball in but the German could only divert away from goal and then hit the bar a second later. Despite being behind after 10 minutes Chelsea could have been 3-1 up on another day.
Chelsea were nearly gifted an equaliser midway through the half though. Meslier’s wayward kick lead to Giroud striking from the edge of the box but the Frenchman could only send the ball harmlessly wide. If this was in Sevilla then Giroud may well have bagged himself a 22 minute hattrick.
It was a first half hour of two strikers. Finally, Chelsea grabbed their equaliser and it was that man again, Olivier Goal-roud. Ziyech and Reece James linked up on the right-hand side and the young Englishman’s cross was met by Giroud’s sliding foot to put the ball past Meslier. 1-1. In a frantic half, it was arguably no less than Chelsea deserved.
The Blues did suffer an injury to Ziyech though as he held his hamstring going off injured to a standing ovation on his first appearance in front of a home crowd. His replacement, Christian Pulisic could have scored with his first touch, picking up another loose pass from the Leeds defence, but he couldn’t get a shot away before being tackled.
Despite late forays forward the rest of the half was dull in comparison to the stupendous, nonstop action witnessed at the start. Chelsea could count themselves unlucky to not be leading at half time but that isn’t to say Leeds weren’t good value for being at least level at the break.
Half time: Chelsea 1-1 Leeds
Chelsea’s fast start to the second half was nearly rewarded with Havertz’s flicked header going over the bar. The German was part of a slick midfield with N’Golo Kante and Mason Mount who helped the Blues to their best spell of the game shortly after the break.
Despite the controlled start to the half, Leeds should have had the lead following a training ground corner. As the ball fell to Raphina with an open goal he could only blaze over the bar in a guilt-edged chance for the away side.
Leeds had their keeper to thank though for a tremendous double save to stop Werner twice. The forwards low effort was brilliantly parried and the Leeds stopper also got himself in the way of Werner’s rebound before captain Liam Cooper heroically blocked Mount’s effort.
Meslier’s saves were short lived though, Mount’s corner was met by the towering header of Kurt Zouma as Chelsea went ahead for the first time in the match. The Frenchman’s 4th goal already this season was typical of his improvement in both boxes.
Perhaps the most entertaining part of the second half though was the presence of the home crowd. The Stamford Bridge faithful made a lot of noise and in particular were able to pick on Leeds centre half Diego Llorente, letting him know every time he was in possession.
The crowd were nearly celebrating a 3rd goal after some slick build up play with Kante and Chilwell, the ball very nearly rebounded in off the unexpecting Giroud. It had been a very mixed bunch from Giroud but his impact was notable.
A game of 2 strikers had a sour note. Werner must have left his finishing boots with Germany. The striker should have buried the game after a wonderful ball from Chilwell. Werner’s shot was straight at Meslier. On another night both of Chelsea’s forwards could have been going home with a match ball.
Christian Pulisic managed to round the game off in injury time following a darting and impressive 90th minute sprint from Werner. Having not been at his best all game, Werner showed his clinical edge as he squared for Pulisic to net his first of the season.
Chelsea managed to get across the line without being troubled too much in the second half though. In a game of missed chances and half chances, both teams will say they should have scored more. The phrase of the day might be on another day, but on this day Frank Lampard took his Chelsea side top.
Full time: Chelsea 3-1 Leeds
Final Thoughts: Chelsea 3-1 Leeds
This wasn’t vintage from Chelsea but it was a very impressive win nonetheless. Leeds have already shown themselves to be a difficult side to beat this year and they will put up more performances very much like this.
Chelsea showed once again why they will be a massive threat to anyone who wishes to win the league this season. Even without a fully firing Werner, they have scored 3 once again and continue to look dangerous in all aspects of the game.
Another point worth noting is that Chelsea know how to manage a game as well. Having gone behind, it would have been easy to panic, Chelsea showed a resilience that has been building throughout the season and it’s only improving.
Written by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)
Edited by Rob Pratley