It was a day to forget for Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea side, as the two historic rivals met in the West Yorkshire sunshine. Leeds United Manager Jesse Marsch looked to improve on the fact that his team had thrown away a 2 goal lead the last time out.
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Leeds United (4-2-3-1)
Meslier; Kristensen, Koch, Llorente, Struijk, Roca, Adams, Aaronson, Rodrigo ©, Harrison, James
Forshaw, Summerville, Klaesson, Sinisterra, Gelhardt, Hjelde, Drameh, Greenwood, Klich
Mendy; James, Thiago Silva, Koulibaly, Loftus-Cheek, Gallagher, Jorginho, Cucurella, Mount, Sterling, Havertz
Kepa; Chalobah, Ampadu, Chilwell, Azpilicueta, Pulisic, Ziyech, Hudson-Odoi, Chukwuemeka
Leeds United made one change from the team that drew 2-2 at St. Mary’s last weekend, with Daniel James coming in for the injured Patrick Bamford.
Chelsea made one change from the team that put in a stellar performance against Tottenham last Sunday. Conor Gallagher made his first full start for the Blues in place of N'Golo Kante, who sustained a hamstring injury in last weekend’s game.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek stayed in the right wing-back position after being so positive in the role last time out. Everything remained the same for Thomas Tuchel’s side, with Gallagher being the only change.
The game started off lively. Both teams were in full attacking flow as the opening minutes saw end to end football. Inside the first minute, Raheem Sterling was just inches away from opening the scoring. Kalidou Koulibaly stepped in to intercept and win back the ball, and quickly exchanged passes with Marc Cucurella. An exchange between Cucurella and Conor Gallagher allowed Gallagher to drive forward and play a perfectly weighted pass to Sterling. He cut inside and ghosted through a group of Leeds defenders as he unleashed a shot from the edge of the box, but his right-footed attempt flew just wide of the post.
Leeds had a lovely spell of play after Chelsea’s first chance of the game. The high intensity and high press from Leeds was in full force. Playing out from the back looked like it was going to be a difficult task for Chelsea, as they faced an onslaught of pressure. Leeds had a decent spell of possession, in which Dan James blazed the ball over the bar after trying his luck from distance, and Edouard Mendy saved comfortably from Jack Harrison.
It looked like quick counter-attacking moves for Chelsea were going to be the most effective. Ruben Loftus-Cheek should have found the back of the net. Sterling ran at the Leeds defence, before Kai Havertz helped the ball on to Loftus-Cheek, but he hesitated before making his shot and the opportunity went begging.
After the opening 20 minutes, the game calmed down, although Chelsea still looked uncomfortable due to the way in which Leeds retained the ball and closed any spaces. The energy levels from Jesse Marsch’s side were evidently higher than that of Chelsea’s.
Sterling did manage to find the net for Chelsea with a fine finish, after Cucurella floated a lovely ball over the top for the winger. However, the flag went up for offside just as Sterling’s side-footed shot rippled into the goal.
Chelsea eventually settled into the game, as another attempt went amiss. Havertz headed the ball into space for Mason Mount. The England international dragged a low shot towards the near post, and it looked destined for the bottom corner before Illan Meslier pulled off a sublime fingertip save to deny the away side the opening goal.
Chelsea saw plenty of the ball, but it was mostly to keep Leeds’s energetic pressing at bay. Leeds’ intensive style of play paid off, in a way Edouard Mendy will be in a hurry to forget. Thiago Silva played a back pass to Mendy, where he hesitated on the ball. To buy himself some more time, Mendy tried the dummy on Leeds’ Brendan Aaronson, but the forward was wise to his move and latched on to Mendy, dispossessing him in the process. He simply couldn’t miss from less than a yard out, and the American put Leeds a goal to the good.
Within 4 minutes, Leeds had Chelsea shaken to the core as they unbelievably went 2-0 up at Elland Road. 2 goals in quick succession from the home side had Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel stumped. Although, with the second goal, there was a massive feeling of injustice for the Chelsea fans. The goal resulted from a free kick outside the area after Sterling was adjudged to have committed a foul on Marc Roca, where there looked to have been very little contact made. The set-piece was curled in, and Rodrigo rose highest to Jack Harrison’s ball in, and glanced the ball in at the near-post, to give Leeds a 2-goal cushion.
Chelsea immediately pushed forward after the double blow, and sustained possession but couldn’t make anything worthwhile before half-time. It must be said that Jesse Marsch’s half time team talk would have been much more positive than Thomas Tuchel.
Thomas Tuchel felt that he needed to alter the way in which Chelsea were playing if they had any chance in the game. He altered the formation from a 3-4-3 to a narrow 4-2-2-2 formation, moving Loftus-Cheek into midfield alongside Jorginho, with Gallagher and Mount ahead of them, and Sterling and Havertz up top. Jesse Marsch sent his Leeds team out for the second half with the very same intent they had in the first. No personnel changes were made for either team before they kicked off for the second 45.
Chelsea started the second half brightly. Loftus-Cheek produced an excellent piece of skill before combining with Reece James to break into the Leeds box. Chelsea’s energy and intent had upped, but Leeds still looked the same relentless team, and were still causing Chelsea all kinds of problems that they couldn’t deal with.
With 25 minutes remaining, Tuchel opted to send out the most attacking team he could. Jorginho and Gallagher were the two that were made to leave the field, and Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech were introduced.
By this stage of the game, Leeds were dropping deeper and deeper as Chelsea tried to make their way up the pitch, making Chelsea’s attempt at getting back into the game even more difficult. Reece James unleashed a low shot towards the bottom corner, forcing Meslier into action. Koulibaly was first to get his head to the corner that came afterwards but caused Meslier no problems.
Leeds sprung into life, just as Chelsea were gaining some momentum in the game. Dan James found himself free down the left-hand side for Leeds as they broke, and his cross was awkwardly found its way to Jack Harrison. Harrison was marginally onside, and was there to sweep home, to add more salt to Chelsea’s wounds.
Chelsea’s afternoon almost became embarrassing as Leeds looked keen to replicate the double that they had pulled off in the first half. Vital intervention from Cucurella took the ball away from starman Rodrigo, who was poised and ready to score his second of the game.
The west London side’s day went from bad to worse in west Yorkshire as Koulibaly was penalised for a cynical foul on Leeds substitute Joe Gelhardt. The Sengalese international had already been given a yellow card early in the game and knew exactly that another card was coming his way as soon as he brought down the Leeds youngster. The Blues saw out the remainder of the game with 10 men, which summed up the ineptitude of Chelsea’s display.
Jesse Marsch will have certainly come away from the game smiling, as his team gave a performance the home fans should be proud of. As for Chelsea, it looks like there is work to be done, both in the transfer market and the changing room. The performance at Elland Road from Chelsea was nowhere near what it should have been, and Tuchel’s team looked completely different to the one that played Spurs last Sunday. It’s safe to say, there is work to be done.