- Chelsea take the lead after three minutes
- Dan James sent off for reckless foul on Mateo Kovacic
- Chelsea cakewalk to victory over toothless 10 men
- European champions four points clear in fourth
- Jesse Marsch has made Leeds the dirtiest team in the league - and for what?
If Leeds United are relegated in 10 days, they are going down scrapping. This was another defeat and another straight red card for Jesse Marsch’s team, who remain in the bottom three.
They will be without Dan James for their final two matches after his lunge at Mateo Kovacic, who is now a major doubt for the FA Cup final on Saturday. He joins Luke Ayling on the sidelines after his dismissal at the weekend, while Stuart Dallas’ reckless challenge in the match before that saw him suffer a serious knee injury.
“It’s a little unfair to classify Stuart’s injury in the same category but we have to be aggressive against the ball and sometimes we have been too aggressive in situations and that has cost us,” said Marsch.
The American coach is running out of time to get Leeds safe and also running out of players for games against Brighton and Brentford which will decide their season. Leeds desperately need victories helped by discipline from their players.
They were unfortunate to meet a Chelsea team intent on getting within confirmation of a Champions League place, rather than resting players for Wembley. Kovacic’s injury was a blow but they are no longer looking over their shoulder in the top-four race.
Mason Mount opened the scoring early on before Leeds were reduced to 10 men, then Christian Pulisic added and Romelu Lukaku added more. Kovacic’s injury injury aside, it was perfect preparation for the weekend.
“Maybe we will have a miracle but it is unlikely that he plays in the final,” said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. “He has a swollen ankle and is in a lot of pain. I’m not a doctor and we need to wait for the examinations but it is absolutely bad news for us.”
Mount was one of Leeds’ foes from the Championship, knocking them out of the play-offs while on loan at Derby. He read the matchday programme before kick-off, with home skipper Liam Cooper calling for fans to make it “hostile and intimidating”, but the England forward silenced them within four minutes.
He was cupping his ears in celebration after finishing off a sweeping move. Chelsea’s passing took the ball from Marcos Alonso on one flank to Reece James on the other in a matter of seconds.
When James pulled the ball back for Mount, he curled into the top corner, bending the ball around Cooper and using the centre-back’s position as a guide on where to place his shot.
Leeds forward James made it two red cards in as many games when he was given a straight dismissal for his horror tackle on Kovacic. While he played the ball initially, his follow-through saw his studs land on Kovacic’s left ankle and Anthony Taylor did not hesitate when he sent him off.
Chelsea analysts in the press box voiced their anger at the tackle. Marsch, meanwhile, threw his arms in the air on the touchline and remonstrated with the fourth official, but this was a red card in anybody’s language. That did not spare Kovacic a volley of abuse when he was subbed off injured. The Croatian gave as good as he got.
It got worse for Leeds with Jack Harrison picking up a first-half thigh injury and needing to be replaced, Raphinha went off as a precaution later. Leeds fans whirled white scarves but were not waving the white flag in the relegation scrap. Just like they did during the thrashing at the hands of Manchester City, they kept urging players to keep fighting.
They have certainly been getting stuck in. When Kalvin Phillips was booked, it was their 97th booking of the campaign.
Pulisic added the second goal after the break, rolling the ball into the bottom corner after Mount had flicked into his path on the edge of the area. Lukaku smashed in his close-range goal despite five Leeds defenders lying in front of him.
It meant Chelsea bounced back after drawing with Leeds on Saturday and holding a team meeting to clear the air.
“We spoke about how big this week was, it didn’t start well with the loss so we needed a bounce back and had few days to get together and speak within group, truths needed to be said and we got that out of our system,” Mount said.
Leeds 0 Chelsea 3 as it happened
Wasn't easy when we gave up the early goal but I thought we started well [apart from that]. The red card made it difficult for us. It was similar to the Arsenal match.
The guys ran, competed for each other, never stopped, and it was disappointing. We can't dwell on negative things. It has to be total focus for Sunday.
Dan was aggressive and thought he can win the ball in the middle and ended up being over zealous a little. I haven't watched it back, I thought he got the ball but someone told me it was a red. We have to stick together.
It's a big challenge. It's felt like that for months. Our backs are against the wall. It's all about Sunday now.
Our fans have been absolutely phenomenal. We've been trying, my last phrase to the team is that they worked so hard, they're so committed they deserve it but we have to earn it.
[Against Brighton] we have to keep the match even, not go down early and do what we can to achieve the result.
Mason Mount speaks
I do love playing here, it's a stadium with a lot of history and they don't like us very much.
I was reading the programme before the game, when you come her it's tough but we needed the win, it was a massive game for both of us. We needed to bounce back.
I wouldn't say that [that Leeds were nervous]. It was all about us and the counter-press.
I wasn't looking when the tackle was made. I saw Kov on the floor. It was tough for them [afterwards].
We say every game's a final but the next one is!
Full time Leeds 0 Chelsea 3
Chelsea are world and European champions for a reason but that was a dreadful performance by Leeds. They were badly set up from the start by a manager who seems to be trying to make them do things they are incapable of achieving. He wasted Raphinha as a wing-back, marginalised Phillips and persists with Dan James in a central position he simply cannot play in. Having said that, it's the outfield signings bar Raphinha since promotion that are consistently not up to snuff. Junior Firpo cost £15m, James £25m, Rodrigo £26m, Llorente £17m and Koch £12m. We'll let Koch off because he has suffered multiple injuries but the rest of them have been dreadful value for scarce money ... for now.
And the indiscipline.
86 min Leeds 0 Chelsea 3
Koch heads Gelhardt's right-wing cross over.
Leeds' fans twirl their scarves in defiance. They are playing so poorly, their heads so far gone, that it is hard to see any way back for them.
Perhaps they should bin Marsch and go hell for leather in the last two games, reverting to the only way these players know.
84 min Leeds 0 Chelsea 3
Llorente dawdles on halfway, as he so often does. The bombscare defender detonates and is robbed. Chelsea pile forward and though Leeds' defenders throw themselves in front of Lukaku, he is patient, twists and turns, teases them, and then thumps a right foot shot into the goal.
Half-time Leeds 0 Chelsea 1
Anything that could go wrong has gone wrong for Leeds in that first-half. A botched formation, great gaps between midfield and defence, flimsiness down the left side of their defence, Raphinha utterly wasted and a mindless challenge in a nothing area of the pitch from James. Chelsea are playing well, but haven't really needed to take the handbrake off. They have far better players but are being helped by Leeds' self-inflicted wounds.
45+2 min Leeds 0 Chelsea 1
There are six minutes of stoppage time on the board for the injuries, cards and the crowd emergency. Chelsea sweep passes from right to left and back again, trying to open up Leeds down the inside-forward channels. It feels like only a matter of time until they score again.
25 min Leeds 0 Chelsea 1
Fully deserved red card. He got the ball but his right leg came out like a lance and planted itself in Kovacic's calf. Leeds' indiscipline and tactical incoherence is killing them.
These are insane tactics from Marsch, whatever the ultimate outcome of this match. Raphinha is playing as a wing-back.
12 min Leeds 0 Chelsea 1
A mix-up between Koch and Meslier who was about to pick up a Raphinha header. Koch hacks it out of his hands and invites another Chelsea attack down the left. Alonso picks out mount and he could easily have scored but Leeds manage by the skin of their teeth to get in the way of his shot, throwing bodies at it.
We were open about [our tiredness and being unsettled by the takeover] but that doesn't help us in achieving what we need. We need points to reach our targets. That is possible today but to a certain degree we can do better and we are trying this today.
Exciting match, exciting crowd, very emotional. It's on us to accept their energy, adapt and enjoy it because that is what the Premier league is all about.
Psychologically it's not that much different [because] we've been in and around this position for a while.
It's about being fresh in our minds and be up for a fight.
We think we can be competitive against Chelsea against the ball. It's a challenge, our guys have been strong and positive.
[On his selection] It's making sure we're stable, not give early goals away, then make our chances and find our lead. I like our group.
Difficult to work out how Leeds will line up
Three at the back with Koch and Phillips as defensive midfielders and James/Raphinha and Harrison as the wing-backs? Or a flattish back four with Koch and Struijk, Bate alongside Phillips and James and Rodrigo in some kind of central roles. Looks like a dog's dinner to this observer but we shall see.
And one more time for black and white viewers
Leeds United Meslier; Koch, Llorente, Cooper, Struijk; Raphinha, Bate, Phillips, Harrison; Rodrigo, James.
Substitutes Klaesson, Firpo, Gelhardt, Hjelde, Cresswell, Greenwood, Klich, Shackleton, Gray.
Chelsea Mendy; Chalobah, Christensen, Rudiger; James, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount, Pulisic; Lukaku.
Substitutes Arrizabalaga, Thiago Silva, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Barkley, Ziyech, Azpilicueta, Havertz, Sarr.
Referee Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe)
And welcome to live coverage of Leeds United, currently 18th in the Premier League, level on points with Burnley but with an inferior goal difference of unseemly proportions, and Chelsea, third and heading to Wembley on Saturday for the FA Cup semi-final. Leeds' five game unbeaten run under Jesse 'Mindfulness' Marsch came to an abrupt end, as form suggested it would, against Manchester City and Arsenal when the incoherence of their post Bielsa narrow tactics and the players' by now instinctive urge to play the out-ball wide, vandalised the one part of the former manager's approach that was still working - the creation of chances if not converting them.
The defence has looked more solid on occasion but part of how these players had closed the titanic talent gap between them and markedly superior squads to compete and finish ninth last season, was their ability to raid forward in waves of movement, like an upended wasp's nest. Order may one day bring the balance he craves and stability at the back but its unintended consequence in neutering the attack has placed Leeds in peril, quaking ground exacerbated by revivals at Everton and Burnley, revivals, Leeds supporters hope, that will run out of steam over the final three games.
Marsch may be better served tonight by simply telling them to tear the backsides off Chelsea from the first whistle and opt for chaos as the cure. A point may prove a good enough result for them but their best way of achieving that with the resources they have is to try to win. If it's Raphinha filling in for the suspended Luke Ayling at wing-back, baldness may become a self-inflicted epidemic in LS11 as thousands of people rip their hair out by the roots.
It is impossible to predict which of the post-Ukraine invasion, Janus-faced, palpably unsettled Chelsea sides will turn up: The one that went down 4-1 at home to Brentford, run ragged by Arsenal, went all vanilla at Everton and chucked it away against Wolves and Manchester United or the slick top-three team that took Southampton to the cleaners.
The rivalry was in hiatus for 16 years while Leeds plumbed the depths so it isn't really relevant but the world and European champions have won only once at Elland Road in the Premier League on their past 10 visits and may well be resting players for Saturday, knowing that Arsenal and Tottenham can only do each other damage tomorrow night and needing their best players to be as sprightly as possible to take down Liverpool and win their ninth FA Cup.
Ayling's red card ended his season and he joins Stuart Dallas, Tyler Roberts, Adam Forshaw, Crysencio Summerville and Patrick Bamford on the sidelines. Liam Cooper, who has missed the last two games, could be back to captain the side, though, which may mean a switch to right-back for Robin Koch. A galloping, tall centre-half at right-back? Shades of David O'Leary's Josimar years at Arsenal in 1992-93. Jamie Shackleton could also slot in there, or Dan James or, dread the thought, Raphinha, who spent 90 minutes out there over the past two games following Dallas's broken tibia and Ayling's broken equilibrium.
Thomas Tuchel said yesterday that Jorginho and N'Golo Kante, who have minor niggles, will not be risked unless he is 100 per cent confident they are 100 per cent fit. Thiago Silva is likely to be rested, as is Marcos Alonso despite kissing and making up with Tuchel after their barney on Saturday. Only Ben Chilwell and Callum Hudson-Odoi are definitely ruled out.
Join us at 6.30pm for the team news.