Leeds United fell to a first defeat since the international break as they were beaten 3-1 by a strong Chelsea side buoyed by the return of 2000 fans to Stamford Bridge.
Leeds came into this game looking to build on the positive results that the newly-promoted side had won against Arsenal and Everton in turn, successfully arresting the streak of negative results that had left the Yorkshire club sitting in 15th only two weeks ago.
They were coming up against a Chelsea team who would go within one point of first with a win. Frank Lampard had spent big in the summer and their recent form reflected that, they were finally defensively solid, having kept the most clean sheets of any team, and were scoring a fair amount to boot.
Marcelo Bielsa made no changes to the starting XI that had taken three points against Everton last week however there was a place for Diego Llorente, signed from Real Sociedad in the summer, who had just come back from an injury. Frank Lampard decided to keep faith with Olivier Giroud, who scored all four goals on the victory against Sevilla this week, but largely reverted back to the team who drew with Tottenham last time out.
It seemed initially that Bielsa’s consistency would pay off as the Argentine’s side went ahead in the fourth minute. Jack Harrison did well to clear the ball from the edge of his own area. His pass found the path of Kalvin Phillips whose first time ball cut through the Chelsea defence and Patrick Bamford was there to turn in for his seventh Premier League goal of the season.
The game was as end-to-end as we have come to expect of Leeds’ games this season but the flow of the Championship victors was interrupted in the seventh minute as their defensive mainstay, Robin Koch was forced to leave the pitch after a clash of knees with Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma. That meant a debut for summer signing Diego Llorente as Chelsea mounted their assault on the Leeds goal.
Shot after shot came in as Chelsea desperately tried to equal the score. Illan Meslier was forced into an impressive reflex save after Timo Werner had inadvertently cleared an Oliver Giroud header from the line and tried to divert his own clearance goalward. The veteran French striker also had a shot from the edge of the box that drizzled just wide of the post.
Leeds didn’t lie down though and did keep trying to double their advantage, Jack Harrison had a shot blocked inside the Chelsea area after some good work down the right from Raphinha. Patrick Bamford had an attempt from outside the area which rolled into the arms of Edouard Mendy before Leeds’ defence was finally penetrated.
Reece James made inroads down the Leeds right and delivered a dangerous cross towards Giroud, who couldn’t miss. It was the striker’s fifth goal in two games and he went a long way to making his case to be a consistent starter for Frank Lampard’s side.
The two teams went into half-time equal and Leeds United were good value for that. They had gone toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the Premier League and had not embarrassed themselves.
The second half was an entirely different story. Leeds, usually so slick on the ball, could not string more than a few passes together and Lampard’s Chelsea did a very good job of limiting their chances.
Chelsea seemed dangerous every time they attacked, drawing brilliant interventions from Alioski, Cooper and Meslier as the Leeds defenders tried desperately to keep the arrears level. Kai Havertz headed over from a free-kick and Christian Pulisic had a shot blocked until finally, Frank Lampard’s side got their goal.
It will come as no surprise to Leeds fans that it came from a corner. Kurt Zouma headed in from six yards as Chelsea improved their already impressive tally of set-piece goals.
Leeds pushed on to try and find an equaliser, Raphinha took on a volley direct from a corner that had to be seen to by Mendy and then Ian Poveda cut in from the right and drew the shot-stopper into another save.
Poveda’s attempt was of note for another reason though as the young winger was clipped by Ben Chilwell inside the area yet didn’t go to ground. On the back of the decisions given to Brighton and West Ham this season, Leeds may have had a case for a penalty yet the incident was not closely looked at by VAR and the game continued.
Leeds didn’t stop moving forwards but failed to create any clear-cut chances, even with the introduction of the sprightly Rodrigo. The final nail was put in the coffin in added time as Chelsea countered down the Leeds left through Timo Werner, Stuart Dallas couldn’t keep up with the German who then selflessly squared the ball tp Christian Pulisic, with the American turning in the ball from close range.
Chelsea deserved the win on the day, a dominant second half performance saw their class shine through and in the end they were just too much to deal with. Leeds might perhaps have a case for a penalty but cannot say that the result was unfair.
Meslier – 8
Ayling – 6
Koch – 6
Cooper – 7
Dallas – 6
Phillips – 7
Raphinha – 6
Klich – 6
Alioski – 6
Harrison – 6
Bamford – 7
Llorente – 6
Poveda – 7
Rodrigo – 6