Chelsea v Leeds United 5th December 2020 at Stamford Bridge

Thank you, Kate and Rob, for buying my new book Leeds Are Going to the Premier League. There is still time to buy a last-minute Christmas present for the Leeds fan in your life using the following link either direct from my publisher or from Amazon

With a busy week behind me, it has kept me away from things going on behind the scenes although I had heard there were doubts about Koch’s fitness for the game. As it was, he was named on the team sheet.

Team: Meslier, Koch, Cooper, Ayling, Dallas, Phillips, Alioski, Bamford, Klich, Harrison and Raphinha. Subs: Diego Llorente for Koch (9) Poveda for Harrison (57) and Rodrigo for Alioski (69). Subs not used: Casilla, Roberts, Costa and Struijk. Leeds lost the game 3-1 with Bamford scoring an early goal for Leeds (4). Attendance: 2,000 Chelsea fans allowed back in the ground for the first time since the last Covid lockdown, but no away fans. Referee: Kevin Friend

Our return to Stamford Bridge saw Bielsa up against Lampard. I admit I haven’t got fond thoughts of him but despite everything that happened in the play-offs against Derby in the second leg, I loved the “stop crying Frank Lampard” song at the away leg.

The game kicked off at a cracking pace with Chelsea on the attack which saw Meslier save with his feet with the very first shot they had. Chelsea then came near with a header with only two minutes on the clock. The game turned on its head as Leeds counterattacked which saw a great pass from Phillips on the wing to Bamford in the middle of the pitch. He ran through the defence, rounded the keeper, and struck a first time shot into the net in the fourth minute! Get in Leeds, a great start!

Koch had already been fouled but then went down injured and had to go off in the ninth minute with Llorente coming on for his league debut. Immediately it looked like Chelsea had equalised from a corner but somehow the ball came out when it looked as if it had gone into the net. Replays showed their player stopped it going in, then Meslier saved it and the ball hit the crossbar and was then cleared but we survived. It didn’t take long to realise that this was going to be a tough game but then Leeds nearly scored a second goal. Leeds played some great attacking football but Alioski’s shot hit the post and came back out but the flag went up for offside so it wouldn’t have counted anyway. We then started to mess about at the back and although there was a bad pass out from Meslier, the defence were putting him under pressure. Don’t do it Leeds. Luckily for us the shot was wide. Some good work from Raphinha saw Bamford’s shot saved by the keeper who looked unsighted, but there wasn’t enough power in the shot to get past him. With that Chelsea went to the other end and scored to equalise just before the half hour mark. One of their players was injured in the build-up and then subbed.

A bad ball by Llorente across the box was won by Chelsea but somehow, we managed to clear the ball. They were a very fast team in attack, but we were giving them too much room on the wing as Cooper put the ball out for a corner. Meslier caught the ball well from the header. Harrison then switched sides with Raphinha before a great tackle from Alioski set up an attack but Raphinha’s cross was cleared. Phillips’s ball to Alioski was picked up by them to run at us again but we managed to get the ball back as three minutes injury time was put up on the board. Harrison was struggling at times today with two men on him every time he got the ball. Llorente made an important tackle but then our attack broke down. Chelsea counterattacked and had an open run down the wing but luckily for us the shot went wide.

As we came out for the second half, we hadn’t made any changes to the team but to me we didn’t start very well. We started to mess about at the back and looked hesitant and once again we were nearly punished for it.  Raphinha stayed down when caught in the face although it didn’t look too bad contact. Meslier nearly had the ball taken off his toes as Leeds cleared the ball. Chelsea were continuing to be very quick on the attack and although I hate to say it, Lampard has got them playing football. Maybe it helped him by Chelsea having a transfer ban last season. There was some good defending from Cooper as he shielded the ball out for a goal kick. Another time as we headed the ball back to Meslier, he was going in the other direction and had to change direction and get back for the ball. Leeds saw Raphinha hit a great ball which was blocked and as the rebound came to him, he hit it over the crossbar, but it was a good attempt. Poveda then came on for Harrison after 57 mins which was what I thought would happen. Meslier then made a fantastic double save from Chelsea before some great defending from Alioski who put the ball out for a corner. Unfortunately for us they scored from that, although it looked like Cooper was fouled just before it went into the net but only the goal for Chelsea was given.

As Chelsea came close after another attack, I knew we needed to make a change. I’d already said that Alioski should come off for Rodrigo prior to Bielsa making the decision, showing we were on the same wavelength. Chelsea were closing us down well and continued to attack us with Meslier saving a long range shot from them. Rodrigo started making a difference and was involved in a couple of good attacks before Bamford made a great tackle to win the ball back but got hurt in the process. Llorente kept sending long balls forward which gave Chelsea the impetus to attack as they won the ball every time. As I was critical of us messing about at the back, I suppose I can’t have it both ways. He was also booked for a foul on his debut. Chelsea were a strong side and after winning the ball from Poveda made another attack but Meslier saved with his legs. Leeds managed to find a bit of space and after some great work by Poveda his shot was low and straight at the keeper but it was a good move. He was fouled in the box in the build-up and the pundits were saying if he had gone down, we’d have got a penalty. As Dallas slipped which meant he lost the ball, I couldn’t help but think of the amount of times we slip in comparison to other teams? Is it down to the boots our players wear as I can’t remember other teams slipping as much as we do on a regular basis? Deep into injury time, Chelsea counterattacked and beat Dallas for pace down the wing and put the ball across for them to get a third goal. Raphinha too then found himself in the book for a foul.

Another game in London that went against us, but we never stopped trying and, on the day, Chelsea deserved their win. I’ll admit I’d no idea that their win would take them to the top of the table tonight so I can’t say they played well because they had their fans back! These things will happen and it’s another learning curve for us as I resigned myself to the defeat. On to the next game which sees us play West Ham next Friday evening at Elland Road.  LUFC – Marching on Together!