Match Report

Match Report: Leeds 0 Chelsea 0

It was a point apiece for Chelsea and Leeds in our first league game at Elland Road since 2003, although both sides could have won it with good chances missed and fine saves made.

A high-octane start gave way to a tighter affair, but Thomas Tuchel will feel his team could have been more decisive in the final third. Kai Havertz had a couple of promising sights of goal, and we were nearly gifted an opener early on as a Leeds clearance struck the bar.

The hosts were not without opportunities of their own, and we were indebted to one superb Edouard Mendy save in each half. The first tipped a shot from Tyler Roberts on to the woodwork, the second denying Raphinha from close range.

We worked hard for a winner but it was not to be. Satisfaction can be taken in the fact that for the first time since December 2016, we have recorded four consecutive clean sheets, and it is now 12 unbeaten since Tuchel’s arrival. If we can extend that run on Wednesday night against Atletico Madrid a place in the Champions League quarter-finals will be ours.

The selection

Tuchel continued to make wholesale changes, six in total for today’s game. Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Jorginho and Havertz were the only outfielders who kept their place from the win over Everton.

The fresh 4-3-3 formation bore similarities to the one deployed earlier in the campaign. Havertz was again deployed in a number nine role having shone there against the Toffees, while Christian Pulisic started his first league game since Tuchel’s arrival. He was ready to step in defensively when required, but mostly stayed high and wide. 

Our maiden Premier League visit to this part of Yorkshire in almost two decades kicked off in sunny but cold and windy conditions, Chelsea resplendent in all blue against the all-white of Leeds. A far from perfect pitch and a frenzied start only added to the nostalgic feeling.

Action-packed opening

The first chance was Chelsea’s, and owed much to the acceleration of Pulisic. He skipped past Ezgjan Alioski and centred, with Leeds’ skipper Luke Ayling doing just enough to prevent Havertz tapping in.

In the blink of an eye the hosts countered and had the ball in the net through Tyler Roberts, but Christensen had cleverly stepped up to play Patrick Bamford offside in the build-up.

With so many creative players in our team, crisp and incisive passing was the order of the day early on. One such move caused sufficent panic in the Leeds box for Ayling to thump a clearance into his team-mate Diego Llorente. It looped over Illan Meslier, off the crossbar and back into the Leeds keeper’s grateful grasp.

Super save

It was Marcelo Bielsa’s side’s turn to be denied by the woodwork on the quarter-hour. From a standing position on the edge of the box, Roberts curled goalwards with the help of the wind. At full stretch, Mendy got the slightest touch to push it on the bar, and thankfully the rebound landed safely.

The pace slowed a little although both sides’ press remained. N’Golo Kante and Ben Chilwell had efforts from range deflected wide as the rain started to teem down in West Yorkshire.

Bamford, a Chelsea player between 2012 and 2017, then had to be withdrawn on 35 minutes through injury. Rodrigo came on.

Kai denied again

Before the break Mount tried his luck from 20 yards, with Meslier gathering at the second attempt, and Havertz fired straight at the Frenchman having latched on to a cute Hakim Ziyech pass.

It was Havertz in the thick of things at the start of the second half, too, creating a yard of space for himself with a clever turn before thumping a shot at Meslier, who palmed over. It was our clearest opening yet.

The German then couldn’t get a clean connection on a header from a trademark Ziyech cross, and in the same attack Kante broke free and opted to pass rather than shoot, to no avail.

Mendy hadn’t had much to do with his hands since his super first-half stop, but was called into action in the 55th minute. Raphinha picked up a second ball 10 yards out and got his shot away; Mendy impressively shifted his momentum and stuck out a strong left paw to deny his former Rennes team-mate.

That final, clinical touch remained elusive. On the hour, an off-balance Chilwell poked wide as he charged into the box.

Blues blunted

Midway through the second half, Tuchel brought Reece James and Timo Werner on for Pulisic and Ziyech. The formation reverted to a more orthodox back three, with James at right wing-back. Pulisic had been our most advanced player during his time on the pitch.

James made a crucial contribution in his own six-yard box, turning Llorente’s goalbound shot over the bar. From the corner, an unmarked Rodrigo headed straight at Mendy.

With five minutes remaining, sub Callum Hudson-Odoi cut inside and shot too close to Meslier. It was a moment of promise but rather summed up a game in which defences won out.

What’s next?

Attention now turns to the cup competitions, starting with the Champions League on Wednesday. Atletico Madrid are the visitors to the Bridge for the second leg of our round-of-16 tie. Then on Sunday it’s Sheffield United in the last eight of the FA Cup. That is also in SW6.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Rudiger, Chilwell; Kante, Jorginho; Pulisic (Werner 68), Ziyech (James 68), Mount (Hudson-Odoi 79); Havertz.
Unused subs Kepa, Zouma, Emerson, Alonso, Kovacic, Giroud.

Leeds (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling (c), Struijk, Llorente, Alioski; Phillips; Raphina, Roberts, Dallas, Harrison (Helder Costa 64); Bamford (Rodrigo 35 (Klick 79)).
Unused subs Casilla, Koch, Poveda, Shackleton, Berardi, Jenkins.
Booked Roberts 23, Alioski 71, Rodrigo 74

Referee Kevin Friend

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