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Chelsea fans couldn’t have asked for a better welcome back to Stamford Bridge, right?
Well, I suppose the end result could have been more comfortable, or maybe Frank Lampard’s men could have finished the game earlier, but Leeds United was never going to turn around. In the end, the Blues put on a performance that reeked of title contenders.
And that will be as exciting for the Chelsea faithful as a hypothetical and comfortable 3-0 victory over their rivals. They say that to be taken seriously as a contender for the Premier League trophy, you must possess a variety of methods of winning on your locker.
Hitting teams, achieving results, or just getting past a stubborn opponent. On Saturday night, Chelsea put on a performance that encapsulated these three traits in a 90-minute period.
Lampard’s men suffered an early setback, were caught by a smart ball behind defense, and a rare misjudgment by goalkeeper Edouard Mendy left them behind. Against a team as cunning, relentless and energetic as Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, this would have seen the alarm bells go off all over West London.
Instead, the Blues were calm personified in their quest for revenge. They almost fought back immediately, but Timo Werner somehow managed to break the crossbar less than a meter from the goal.
So will it be one of those days?
Not with this firepower, it isn’t. Chelsea kept going despite missed opportunities and worked the perfect opening to make things right. The man of the moment Olivier Giroud did not miss the opportunity to shine.
Hakim Ziyech beautifully created some space for Reece James, who threw a signature cross to the front post, and his French catcher did the rest, pocketing the ball and restoring parity at the half hour mark.
Now, with the wind in their sails, the hosts swayed and rolled. Opportunities came and went, but the important thing was that they came first. They had to be patient and wait to pierce their noses up front, with Illan Meslier in top form and Leeds standing firm, albeit a little creaking.
However, as with any top team, they found a way. Lampard’s men broke through the white barrier through defender Kurt Zouma, who rose above his markers to smash a brilliant header into the net. Stamford Bridge exploded: it was the moment everyone had been waiting for.
Now later on, Chelsea started putting on a show. They impressively quenched the Leeds threat and broke through with a crushing pace, as Werner and Christian Pulisic teamed up for a series of excellent saves and blocks from behind.
As the minutes passed, Lampard’s men were also showing signs of mental growth and maturity, refusing to crumble under the late pressure and holding their own. The visitors took a couple of chances, but Mendy was rarely tested, as the ever-reliable Thiago Silva demonstrated exactly why the Blues did well to bet on him, despite his advanced years.
That dynamic duo Werner and Pulisic had one last laugh, combining to tear Leeds apart and leave the result beyond question, adding a nice, bright glow to a hard-fought 3-1 win.
Lampard will undoubtedly be delighted. He has finally found a winning formula that complements both his defense and his attack, and he is beginning to find the right personnel for the job at hand.
The Chelsea manager will downplay any talk of a title push as premature for now, but fans who were lucky enough to step onto the bridge on Saturday can now confirm with their own eyes: they are well and truly on the hunt. .
Begin to dream boys and girls, Lampard is on the move.