Chelsea continued their fine run of form with a 3-1 victory over Leeds United at Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard’s team fell behind to a fourth-minute goal from Patrick Bamford but bounced back to equalise through Olivier Giroud after 27 minutes. Kurt Zouma gave his side the lead just after the hour and Christian Pulisic sealed a thrilling, fast paced match in stoppage time.
Marcelo Bielsa’s team contributed greatly to the entertainment but were eventually overrun by an unrelenting Chelsea side. These two clubs have a famous, bitter rivalry and the managers have history from Lampard’s time in charge of Derby County but this was a compelling game fought in the best tradition. It was a highly enjoyable watch for the 2,000 Chelsea fans allowed into the ground.
The home side made their intentions clear from the start. They poured forward and put Bielsa’s team under pressure. Thiago Silva picked out Hakim Ziyech on the edge of the box and the Moroccan forced Illan Meslier into an early save. Giroud went close from the corner.
Such a commitment to attack has its downside. Leeds had been pinned back when Kalvin Phillips picked up possession out wide just inside his own half. He looked up and saw Kurt Zouma was too high with Bamford lurking on the centre back’s shoulder. The pass from Phillips was delectable; tantalisingly close to Zouma but with enough curl to run into the path of Bamford. The 27-year-old, who spent the majority of his five-year contract at Stamford Bridge out on loan, rounded Edouard Mendy and rolled the ball into the net to score a satisfying goal against his former club.
The game had the feel of a shootout. Chelsea’s response was to charge upfield. The visiting side’s defence suffered an early blow when Robin Koch limped off after eight minutes. Diego Llorente replaced him but there was chaos in the area moments later when Timo Werner somehow blocked Giroud’s headed flick on the line and then prodded the ball against the bar.
Leeds were always dangerous. Bamford found room in the box and shot high. Jack Harrison hit the post but the flag was up for offside.
Chelsea might have been open at the back but they were closing in on an equaliser at the other end. It was created by a bit of magic from Ziyech. The former Ajax midfielder mesmerised three defenders with a little shimmy, buying time for Reece James to overlap. Ziyech fed the full back, whose cross was met at the near post by Giroud and clipped into the net.
Unfortunately for Chelsea it was Ziyech’s last participation in the match. The 27-year-old limped off and was replaced by Pulisic.
Both teams were brimming with positivity and energy. Even when the goalmouth action dipped, the pace remained frenzied. Luke Ayling raided down the right; Mason Mount and Pulisic dropped in to help Ben Chilwell. Werner dribbled half the length of the pitch but Liam Cooper cut out the danger. James sent another cross in the direction of Giroud but the striker was unable to make contact. Chelsea created more chances but the game was finely balanced at the break.
The home side continued the barrage in the second half. Kai Havertz produced a threatening run into the box that forced a corner and then headed over at the near post from a free kick. Leeds maintained their threat. Raphinha shot from distance was blocked by Silva.
Kante drove Chelsea on. The midfielder found Giroud on the edge of the box and the Frenchman slipped the ball wide to Werner, who forced Meslier to save twice in quick succession before Ezgjan Alioski blocked an effort from Mount. The Leeds defence were bending. From the subsequent corner they broke.
Mount’s cross was met by Zouma, who headed downwards into the net. The centre half was exposed by Bamford for the opening goal but his power in the air was evident as he climbed above the crowd to score.
Giroud almost extended Chelsea’s lead from a Chilwell cross and the home side were on top going into the last quarter of the game but they could never relax. Leeds continued to be a threat. Werner should have wrapped up the game after Mount robbed Ian Poveda-Ocampo and curled in a delicious cross but the German shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Tammy Abraham had an opportunity to make it three but fired wide. Pulisic finally killed off Leeds in stoppage time. Werner charged down the right and rolled the ball across the area to give the American a simple chance which he took with aplomb. Chelsea deserved the third goal and were well worth the victory but Leeds were impressive in defeat.
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