Chelsea returned to winning ways with a rare victory at Elland Road, Mason Mount’s fine early goal setting the tone for a dominant performance against 10-man Leeds.
The victory moves us a big step closer to Champions League qualification ahead of Tottenham’s meeting with Arsenal tomorrow. Our first success in four games is also our maiden league win at Leeds since April 2000, only our sixth ever in league competition here and secured by the biggest margin of victory.
Mount fired us in front in just the fourth minute at the end of a slick Chelsea move that epitomised our play throughout. We might have doubled our lead before the hosts were reduced to 10 men, Daniel James’s terrible tackle on Mateo Kovacic earning the Welshman a straight red. Kovacic couldn’t continue, the only blot on an otherwise excellent evening.
Lukaku got the goal his performance deserved with time running out. He collected sub Hakim Ziyech’s pass, danced between a number of white shirts and thumped home from close range.
With a man advantage for well over an hour of the contest, Thomas Tuchel would have enjoyed his team’s dominance of possession as we let the ball do the work, hopefully conserving some energy before Saturday’s showdown with Liverpool. The Blues will go into that one with confidence sky high after a fine showing in Yorkshire.
With the FA Cup final less than 72 hours away, Tuchel made four changes to the team that started against Wolves.
Jorginho returned from injury and captained the side. Ruben Loftus-Cheek made way but would be on earlier than planned. In defence, Trevoh Chalobah and Andreas Christensen came in for Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva, and further forward Mount replaced Timo Werner.
Lukaku kept his place after his brace on Saturday, while Toni Rudiger played his 200th Chelsea game.
For Leeds, former Chelsea Academy midfielder Lewis Bate started a Premier League game for the first time. It was all change at full-back with Pascal Struijk and returning skipper Liam Cooper selected in place of Junior Firpo and Luke Ayling, who was suspended.
Chelsea’s first challenge was quietening a vociferous Elland Road crowd, relishing a first league game against us with supporters present since December 2003. It didn’t take long.
Beginning with a bang
Inside four minutes a simple but well-executed move gave us the lead. Lukaku on halfway released Mount, who in turn spread the ball wide to Reece James. Approaching the box, James teed up Mount behind him and the first-time finish that followed was unerring, curled sweetly into the top corner from the edge of the box. The man who had a fabulous night here in the Championship play-offs with Derby certainly enjoyed celebrating.
In search of a quick second Mount overhit a square pass in Lukaku’s direction after a fine Jorginho pass opened Leeds up once more. With the home crowd’s unease increasing by the minute, Mount then saw a low strike blocked following good persistence down the left from Pulisic.
By the midway point of the half, Leeds had nothing to show for their efforts aside from a tame Diego Llorente shot that trickled harmlessly wide. Perhaps that explains the frustration behind Daniel James’s horror challenge on Mateo Kovacic in our half, but it certainly doesn’t excuse it. Referee Anthony Taylor immediately brandished his red card, with every passing replay making the challenge look worse.
Kovacic briefly continued but sadly couldn’t run it off. Loftus-Cheek replaced him on the half-hour.
Soon after that, Lukaku twice came close to doubling our advantage. He cutely lobbed Illan Meslier after shrugging off Llorente, only for the offside flag to deny him, and then headed just wide from James’s inviting cross.
This Leeds team have picked up more yellow cards than any other in Premier League history, and there was further evidence why before the break when Kalvin Phillips hacked down Pulisic as he spun the wrong side of the England midfielder. It brought up a century of cautions for the Yorkshire outfit.
It was clear Chelsea would dominate possession against the 10 men of Leeds, but having picked up an early red card in their loss at Arsenal on Sunday and subsequently not conceded again, plenty of effort would still be required from the Blues to net another and surely end the contest.
Lukaku headed over and Loftus-Cheek half-volleyed wide in the early exchanges of the second half. With 54 minutes on the clock, we did double our lead and it was another slick move that did the damage.
Jorginho fizzed the ball into Mount’s feet on the edge of the box and his cute first-time lay-off found Pulisic, who steadied himself before firing a left-footed strike into the corner of the net. Meslier was unmoved, and the American had his eighth goal of the season, and his sixth in the league. For Mount, it marked a 10th league assist of the campaign to go with his 11 goals. He is only the fifth Chelsea player in the Premier League era to reach double figures in both departments.
Pulisic curled wide after Jorginho dispossessed Rodrigo. The Chelsea fans in one corner of the John Charles Stand were thoroughly enjoying their night out. Lukaku then spun Cooper and headed for goal, drifting inside but planting his shot a whisker wide of Meslier’s left-hand post.
Hakim Ziyech and Azpilicueta for Pulisic and James were our second and third changes of the night as we entered the final quarter-hour, Tuchel perhaps with one eye on managing minutes ahead of the Cup final.
Rom rounds it off
Ziyech was soon providing an assist for our third. Mount stole possession and the Moroccan unselfishly squared to Lukaku, who took his time and plenty of touches in a tight spot before lashing his shot high beyond Meslier. Seven minutes remained.
We might have even grabbed a fourth on the break as Leeds poured forward, but three goals and a clean sheet will do very nicely indeed.
The small matter of the FA Cup final! We play Liverpool at Wembley on Saturday, kick-off at 4.45pm. Our league campaign concludes next week with a pair of home fixtures, against Leicester on Thursday and Watford on Sunday.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Mendy; Chalobah, Christensen, Rudiger; James (James 78), Jorginho (c), Kovacic (Loftus-Cheek 30), Alonso; Mount, Lukaku, Pulisic (Ziyech 78).
Unused subs Kepa, Sarr, Thiago Silva, Barkley, Havertz, Werner.
Scorers Mount 4, Pulisic 55, Lukaku 83
Leeds (4-2-3-1): Meslier, Koch, Llorente, Cooper (c), Struijk; Bate (Klich 59), Phillips; Raphinha (Gelhardt 78), James, Harrison (Firpo 37); Rodrigo.
Unused subs Klaesson, Hjelde, Cresswell, Greenwood, Shackleton, Gray.
Sent off James 24
Booked Phillips 43
Referee Anthony Taylor