Olivier Giroud’s perfect week continued at Stamford Bridge on Saturday night as the Frenchman got himself on the scoresheet again and helped Chelsea to an impressive Premier League victory...
After netting four in midweek against Sevilla, the Frenchman retained his place up front and repaid the faith shown in him by Frank Lampard with the equalising goal just before the half-hour mark, cancelling out Patrick Bamford’s early opener for Leeds United.
The visitors were their usual full-throttle selves, covering every blade of grass and chasing the ball incessantly. However, Chelsea’s approach to match and even out-do them on that front paid dividends, with the Blues covering 6km more distance than their opponents at Stamford Bridge.
After the game, goalscorer Giroud reflected on the tough test posed by Marcelo Bielsa’s side and the momentum being put together by a Chelsea team now unbeaten in 90 minutes since mid-September.
‘We conceded early but we wanted to bounce back straight away,’ the striker noted after the final whistle. ‘Leeds are one of the best teams I have faced in a few months, they really impressed me.
‘Physically, they run everywhere so it was hard and it’s a great feeling for us to win. I had the opportunity myself to score again and help the team so I am happy for the squad and the staff.
‘We work hard in training, we have faith in our game plan and we are getting better and better. The confidence is here and we want to keep that.’
Kurt Zouma and Christian Pulisic added to Giroud’s leveller to ensure Chelsea ended the day top of the Premier League for the first time since September 2018, with Mason Mount providing the assist for the defender’s header with one of his game-high seven chances created.
The 21-year-old is familiar with Leeds’s high-energy tactics having faced them four times in the 2018/19 Championship season but even he admitted afterwards that the ferocity of the contest in the first half was like nothing he had experienced before.
‘They don’t stop the whole time with the way they run and fight but we knew that coming into the game,' noted Mount. 'I don’t think I’ve played in anything that frantic and that high-tempo before. I saw a stat saying we’re the first team to out-run them in a game so that was brilliant.
‘We just had to weather the storm and keep going. Not many teams score three against them and only concede one – usually they have high-scoring games so we did well to keep it down to one because they create so many chances. We’re happy to score three and win the game so it was a special night.’
Playing their part were 2,000 Chelsea supporters situated in the lower sections of the West Stand and Shed End, the first time fans have been permitted to attend a game at the Bridge since March. For the midfielder and his team-mates, it was a special moment to hear and see the home crowd once again after playing for so long to empty stadiums.
‘I probably noticed them more, even though there were only 2,000 fans,’ Mount claimed. ‘We’ve played without them for so long so it was a breath of fresh air to see them back and all the boys absolutely loved it.
‘It gave us an extra buzz coming into the game and then during the match they kept us going and helped us through it.’
Giroud’s performance also drew praise from Mount, who reiterated how the form of all members of the group was going to be crucial in the months ahead.
‘Oli has five goals in two games now so he’s in unbelievable form and that’s what we need from the whole squad,’ added the 21-year-old. ‘Obviously Tammy has been doing brilliantly and then Oli comes in for the Champions League, scores four goals and now he’s scored again.
‘That’s what we need because that competition for places keeps everyone at a high level. It’s what the gaffer always goes on about. We’re in a good position but we need to keep working hard, keep the standards high and keep winning games.’