Chelsea warmed up for Saturday’s FA Cup final with a 3-0 win at 10-man Leeds United that edges Thomas Tuchel’s side closer to Champions League qualification.
The world champions could have been forgiven for having one eye on their Wembley date with Liverpool, but they were in control and in the lead even before Dan James was sent off midway through the first half.
Dan James followed suspended team-mate Luke Ayling in earning a reckless red card, giving relegation-threatened Leeds a mountain to climb having already conceded to Mason Mount.
Christian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku subsequently wrapped up victory, moving Chelsea in third eight points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham, who have three games to play.
A makeshift Leeds defence missing a natural full-back in Ayling’s absence had been quickly exploited by Chelsea, whose first real foray brought the fourth-minute opener as Reece James teed up Mount for a fine finish high past Illan Meslier.
Staying at 1-0 longer than appeared likely at that stage, Leeds looked to have successfully seen out a spell of relentless Chelsea pressure when Dan James thundered into a challenge on Mateo Kovacic – winning the ball before planting his studs into the midfielder’s ankle – and was dismissed.
Lukaku soon had a goal ruled out for offside and then directed a header just wide of the left-hand post as the visitors sought to capitalise.
They were made to wait until 10 minutes into the second half, when Mount’s flick gave Pulisic space on the edge of the box to pick out the bottom-left corner.
Pulisic and Lukaku each fired narrowly wide, before the latter finally got his goal after patiently steadying himself in the area, with Leeds – already in the relegation zone on goal difference – surely grateful simply to avoid further damage.
What does it mean? Old foes heading in opposite directions
Chelsea may have endured a wobble prior to this match, but they will almost certainly be playing in the Champions League next term while Leeds may well be in the Championship.
Although Elland Road has not always been a happy hunting ground for the Blues – this was just their sixth league win at Leeds – it holds no fear for visiting sides this season. The Whites have now conceded 37 home league goals this season, only once previously (46 in 1959-60) shipping more in a top-flight campaign.
Leeds lose their heads… again
Leeds surpassed Sunderland’s single-season record for Premier League yellow cards at Arsenal, but their lack of discipline was most evident in Ayling’s awful lunge on Gabriel Martinelli. Sadly, Jesse Marsch’s men did not appear to learn from that incident, with Dan James similarly rash on Kovacic.
While the Chelsea man must hope for a swift recovery to be fit for the cup final, Leeds become the first Premier League team to earn 100 cards in a single season and just the eighth side to have a player sent off in the first half of consecutive matches. Far from ideal in the thick of a relegation battle.
100 – Dan James’ red, followed by Kalvin Phillips’ yellow means Leeds this season are the first team to receive 100 cards in a single Premier League campaign (97 yellows, 3 reds). Feisty. pic.twitter.com/UMCjeANE8h
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 11, 2022
Magnificent Mount tops the charts
This was the seventh career Premier League match in which Mount has provided both a goal and an assist – three of which have come since the start of March – and boosted him to 11 goals and 10 assists for the season.
Those 21 top-flight goal involvements, topping Mount’s previous career high of 12, are the joint-most of all English players in the division in 2021-22 (also Harry Kane).
Key Opta Facts
– Chelsea picked up their 20th Premier League win of the season, one more than their total for last season (19).
– Leeds suffered their ninth Premier League defeat of this season at Elland Road; only in 1946-47 (10) have they lost more at home in a single top-flight season.
– Chelsea completed a league double over Leeds for the first time since 1988-89 in the second tier, and their first in the top flight since 1936-37.
– Aged 23 years and 121 days, Mount became the youngest player to hit 10-plus goals and 10-plus assists in a Premier League season for Chelsea.
– Lukaku has scored three goals in his past two Premier League games, more than in his previous 20 appearances in the competition (two goals).
Chelsea’s focus turns to Liverpool at Wembley, by which point they could be sure of a top-four finish if Tottenham do not beat Arsenal on Thursday. Leeds host Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday.
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