Close, but no cigar! Leeds and Chelsea play out a rare goalless draw at Elland Road.
Saturday’s early afternoon kick-off featured a highly anticipated showdown between Leeds United and Chelsea in West Yorkshire.
During what has been an inconsistent season so far for the hosts, Leeds was looking to find their feet once again after only seeing victory once within their last 5 games.
Their opponents however entered the game brimming with confidence, keeping clean sheets in 9 of their 11 games unbeaten under Thomas Tuchel.
Ahead of their first trip to Elland Road in 18 years, Chelsea made 6 changes to their team sheet – as Antonio Rüdiger, Ben Chilwell, N’Golo Kanté, Mason Mount, Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic were all awarded starts.
For Leeds, Marcelo Bielsa made 3 changes to the side lost against West Ham last week – as Pascal Struijk, Ezgjan Alioski and Jack Harrison all made returns to the starting eleven.
Just as expected, the fixture itself exploded into life from the opening whistle.
Just minutes into the game Kai Havertz had a great opportunity to put Chelsea ahead with an early lead, after Christian Pulisic did brillanttly created a chance for the German.
However, from point blank range Havertz struggled to make clean contact, which was nothing but relief for Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier.
17 seconds later, the ball was in the back of Édouard Mendy’s net as Bielsa’s side showed just how quickly they can transition into an attack. Unfortunately for Tyler Roberts, Patrick Bamford was penalised for being a fraction offside earlier in the move.
On the 9th minute, there was another chance – with this time Leeds playing the ball off their own crossbar in what was a bizarre defensive error for the hosts.
Despite aiming to make a clearance, Luke Ayling instead blazed the ball into the legs of teammate Diego Llorente, causing the ball to then spiral backwards over Meslier’s head and onto the crossbar. Despite less than 10 minutes being played – the game somehow remained 0-0.
On the 15th minute, Leeds hit the bar again – but this time it was aimed towards the right goal!
In what was a brilliant attempt, Tyler Roberts lofted the ball towards the back post from a standing position – leaving goalkeeper Mendy all the work to do as he made a sublime fingertip save to touch the ball onto the crossbar and keep the game level.
It was an open game to say the least, with Leeds searching for an opener just as much as Tuchel’s Chelsea. The Whites came close again as Jack Harrison put the ball on a plate for Patrick Bamford following a magnificent cross into the Chelsea penalty area.
The former blue looked destined to score, however a superb headed clearance from Antonio Rüdiger denied the Leeds striker from converting what seemed a certain goal.
Despite the explosive start in the opening 25 minutes, the game then began to mellow – as Chelsea took charge of possession as we’ve seen them do so well under Tuchel.
The Blues later had a chance through Rüdiger following a corner, but the German defender couldn’t respond quickly enough to make the most of the opportunity.
Just like the first half, Chelsea started the second period brightly – and came close once again through Kai Havertz.
The German was picked out by skipper César Azpilcueta, who did well to carry the ball forward for the visitors. Havertz then moved in towards goal, before seeing his effort saved by Meslier once again.
On the 52nd minute, Havertz was involved yet again as Hakim Ziyech did phenomenally to pick out the young German inside the penalty area. However, nothing seemed to be going Havertz way – as he struggled to get enough on his header to cause any real bother to Meslier.
Just 2 minutes later, there was a chance at the other end as Leeds this time came close to breaking the deadlock.
Following a dangerous cross into the penalty area, Rodrigo headed the ball back across goal which perfectly set up Raphinha. The Brazilian took a shot at goal but was denied by a world-class save from Mendy, who with great reactions stuck out a strong right arm to keep his clean sheet intact.
The save from Mendy only seemed to encourage Bielsa’s side, who later came close again as the ball fell for Raphinha at the back post.
The Brazilian looked to at least get his shot away, however Christian Pulisic recovered excellently to prevent what could’ve been a potential goal.
Given the fact that Leeds hadn’t drawn a Premier League game in their last 18 matches, as the minutes unfolded it looked inevitable that it was heading towards that direction.
There were notable shots on goal in the final 15 minutes of the second half by Rüdiger, LLorente, Hudson-Odoi and Werner – yet none were able to find the back of the net as it finished in a stalemate at Elland Road.
After the whistle:
Despite the ‘goalfest’ expectations and the action-packed start, it would almost just be typical for the game to finish goalless, with many expecting so much more than what was delievered.
With that being said, you would struggle to find a better 0-0 game to watch, as there were twists, turns and drama throughout the 90 minutes.
For Leeds, they will see the point as a good result, and perhaps something to build on as they look to close the season in their best possible form. Next up for the Yorkshire club is a trip to Craven Cottage next Friday.
For Chelsea, the draw against Leeds extends their unbeaten streak under Tuchel to 12 games – with there once again being a clean sheet to support the extension of their good run.
Despite the importance of today’s game, Tuchel and his side will immediately be looking towards their clash against Atlético Madrid on Wednesday night – as the Blues look to qualify towards the Quarter-Finals of the Champions League.
Leeds United 0-0 Chelsea.
BBC Sports player of the match:
Illan Meslier (Leeds United).
Leeds United (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Llorente, Struijk, Alioski; Phillips; Raphinha, Dallas, Roberts, Harrison (64’); Bamford (35’).
- Subs: Rodrigo (35’, 79’), Costa (64’), Klich (79’).
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Mendy; Azpilicueta ©, Christensen, Rüdiger, Chilwell; Kanté, Jorginho; Pulisic (68’), Ziyech (69’), Mount (79’); Havertz.
- Subs: James (68’), Werner (69’), Hudson-Odoi (79’).
Leeds United (38%) vs Chelsea (62%).
Leeds United (7) vs Chelsea (15).
Shots on target:
Leeds United (4) vs Chelsea (8).
Leeds United (8) vs Chelsea (5).
Leeds United (16) vs Chelsea (6).
- (credit | BBC Sport).
- (credit | Sky Sports Football).