Chelsea have cemented their place among the top four Premier Leagues and dealt another big blow to hopes of Leeds United’s survival with a 2-0 win on Elland Road on Wednesday.
Just like Sunday’s defeat by Arsenal that ranked them among the last three, Leeds conceded a goal and dropped to 10 players in the first 30 minutes.
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It was on this occasion Mason Mount who found the net, after only four minutes. Daniel James then in the 24th minute saw red due to a horror challenge to the Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovačićwho was soon forced to leave the field just three days before the FA Cup final.
Leeds prevented further damage until halftime, however Christian Pulisic effectively sealed three points for Chelsea with a low shot into the corner of the net 10 minutes of the second half. Romelu Lukakuafter missing a few header chances earlier and then signing up late to make up for a miserable evening for Leeds fans.
“We talked about keeping 0-0 as long as possible, but I thought we were aggressive and the game was still there for us at 0-1 – a red card changes the game,” Leeds coach Jesse Marsch said.
“The guys are exhausted because we are not giving ourselves the chance we want. Our guys are doing everything they can, fighting for each other, to stay in this league. We have to do everything we can to be ready for the next challenge on Sunday.”
The result will alleviate Chelsea’s fear of losing a place in the top four and a place in the Champions League next season. Thomas Tuchel’s side have finished third, but are now four points behind Arsenal and eight points behind Tottenham, although they both have another game – against each other on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Leeds remain in 18th place, tied in points with Burnley, but with an inferior goal difference and two points behind Evertonwith both remaining three games to two Leeds.
Entering the game, Leeds have conceded 34 goals in the domestic league this season, their highest number in the first league in a single campaign from 1959-60.
Lessons were not learned because Mount was left alone to break the deadlock. The fourth-minute goal was the first Leeds to receive in a Premier League game since December 2020.
In a moment of inattention, James unnecessarily knocked down Chelsea midfielder Kovacic in the middle of the line and was given the order to march, meaning he would miss the rest of the season.
Belgian striker Lukaku, who endured a difficult season after joining Chelsea from Inter Milan, then approached his third goal in the last two matches with a header that flashed right next to the goal.
Leeds did not offer any threat in the attack in the opening part, they ended the half without hitting the target, which caused audible frustration from all sides of Elland Road after a break with several misleading passes.
Chelsea took a 2-0 lead when Mount threw the ball into Pulisic, who was left free to choose his place.
Lukaku took advantage of the home side’s poorer defense and raised the score to 3-0 as frustrated Leeds fans headed for the exit seven minutes after the time.
“I was very pleased with the overall level of performance,” Tuchel said. “We were very strong when it was 11 against 11, and you obviously have an advantage after their exclusion.
“But at the same time the level of focus must remain high because Leeds will never stop fighting.
“It was necessary to change things after the series we were in, we needed to step up. We did that as a team, we did our stuff at a much higher level than in the last few games.”
Information from Reuters was used in this report.