Goals from Olivier Giroud, Kurt Zouma and Christian Pulisic saw Chelsea come from behind to defeat Leeds 3-1 in front of 2,000 fans at Stamford Bridge.
It was the first time this season that supporters were allowed into the Bridge and they weren’t disappointed, as Frank Lampard’s Blues put in a complete performance to secure a huge three points and move to the top of the Premier League table.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Chelsea though, with Marcelo Bielsa’s side the ones who opened the scoring through a familiar face in Patrick Bamford.
However the resilience and steel from Lampard’s Blues shone through, and ultimately the additional quality saw us through once Giroud’s equaliser arrived.
The Frenchman netted four against Sevilla in midweek and was among the goals once again tonight, steering home a Reece James cross just before the half-hour mark to draw us level.
Another French international, Zouma, powered home a header in the second half to edge us in front before Christian Pulisic slotted home in injury time to secure all three points and push a point clear of Tottenham and Liverpool to sit at the top of the Premier League.
Lampard again shuffled his pack, making eight changes to the side that comfortably defeated Sevilla in midweek. Olivier Giroud kept his place up top, following his highly-impressive four-goal haul against the Spaniards, with Kai Havertz and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy the other two to remain in the side.
It was a completely new backline, with full-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell coming back into the side either side of central duo Kurt Zouma and captain Thiago Silva.
Mason Mount and N’Golo Kante joined Havertz in midfield, while Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner were chosen to support Giroud in wide forward roles.
The 2,000 Chelsea fans in attendance at a chilly Stamford Bridge were hoping for a fast start to keep to the December cold away, and they certainly got that.
Less than 60 seconds were on the clock before Hakim Ziyech forced Leeds goalkeeper Meslier in a smart stop from close range and latching onto a deep cross. From the resulting Mount corner, Giroud nodded inches wide of the near post. A man in Giroud’s form, you’d expect to see the net bulge.
An early goal seemed inevitable and it took just four minutes for that to theory to be proven right, however it was a former Chelsea striker now wearing Leeds colours that opened the deadlock. A delightful Kalvin Phillips through ball allowed Bamford to get between Kurt Zouma and Edouard Mendy, with the forward rounding our goalkeeper before tapping into the empty net to mark his return to Stamford Bridge with a goal.
The Blues looked for an immediate response, however, and twice went close through Werner. First the German saw a deflected effort flash wide before then somehow inadvertently keeping out a goal-bound Giroud header, before then hitting against the cross bar from close range. Was it going to be one of those nights?
More goals for Giroud
Both sides were attacking at will and the visitors had their best period of the half just after the first quarter of an hour, with Bamford firing over from close range after peeling away from his marker to meet a cross. Moments later, Alioski struck the inside of Mendy’s far post, however the flag was raised for offside in any case.
However when you have a man in the form that Giroud is in, you always felt that another goal for him would follow and that’s exactly what happened after 27 minutes. A delightful Reece James cross picked out the Frenchman who steered the ball into the net with a tidy left-footed finish, before celebrating with the Chelsea fans seated in the West Stand. They’ve waited a long time to see a Blues goal in the flesh, so it was most welcomed!
Both sides continued to attack at will but there were no further major chances of note, although both sides were forced into first-half changes through injury. Hakim Ziyech limping off to be replaced by Christian Pulisic for the Blues.
Zouma zooms in… again!
The second period started in the same vein as the first – fast, frantic and full of chances. Havertz headed just wide from a Mount corner for the Blues, before Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites went close from a corner of their own. Raphinha’s shot was blocked well by Thiago Silva before the same Leeds player then fired the rebound over. A let-off for the Blues.
And we made Leeds pay for missing that chance, as the familiar sight of Zouma rising highest to head home remerged. Werner forced Meslier into a fine double stop, before Mount’s deflected effort went over for a corner. It was Mason who took the corner and there was Zouma to hang in the air above Liam Cooper and power a header into the bottom corner. The Blues were in front.
Using the squad well
After nine changes against Sevilla, and a further eight again tonight, it’s fair to say Lampard is utilising all the players available to him as we approach a typically busy December period.
Havertz was withdrawn with just over 20 minutes remaining, as he continues to be eased back in following a spell out due to Covid-19 with Mateo Kovacic – a man who impressed against Sevilla – his replacement.
Our front players were continuing to look for more goals, with Werner again denied by a smart save from Meslier after being picked out well by Chilwell, while Giroud headed a Mount corner over from close range.
The Frenchman’s night was over not long after that chance, earning a well deserved rest as Tammy Abraham replaced him for the final stages. Abraham was eager to get himself on the scoresheet, flashing a late effort just wide. All three strikers will get their opportunities over the next few weeks.
Pulisic wraps it up
While Werner may not have scored himself, he played a huge part in securing the win by assisting Pulisic to notch in injury time. The German scampered away down the right before sliding the ball across the face of goal for the arriving Pulisic, who couldn’t miss from close range.
The final whistle arrived moments later and signalled a deserved Chelsea victory, which was greeted with delight by the Blues supporters in attendance. Hearing the noise from the stands was sweet for all.
No more so for Frank Lampard and his players, who celebrated the victory with the supporters - as the sound of One Step Beyond rang out - with the three points moving Chelsea to the summit of the Premier League ahead of the rest of the weekend fixtures.
Another Stamford Bridge evening game, with our focus turning to the Champions League and our final Group E game against Krasnodar. We’ve already qualified for the knockout stage of the competition and it could be a good chance for Lampard to rotate his squad once again. It will be another chance for 2,000 Blues supporters to cheer on Chelsea at the Bridge, too!
Chelsea (4-3-3): Mendy; James, Zouma, Thiago Silva (c), Chilwell; Havertz (Kovacic 67), Kante, Mount; Ziyech (Pulisic 29), Giroud (Abraham 79), Werner.
Subs not used: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Jorginho.
Leeds 4-4-1-1: Meslier; Ayling, Koch (Llorente 9), Cooper (c), Dallas; Raphinha, Klich, Phillips, Alioski (Rodrigo 69); Harrison (Poveda 57); Bamford
Subs not used: Casilla, Struijk, Costa, Roberts.
Booked: Llorente, Raphinha.