Giroud, Zouma and Pulisic propel Blues to top spot with 3-1 win over Leeds Utd at the Bridge
By Paul Lagan
Chelsea 3 v Leeds United 1
Kurt Zouma bullet-headed Chelsea back to the top of the Premier League as the Blues came from behind to beat old foes Leeds United 3-1 at Stamford Bridge tonight.
The France centre-back smashed home the goal, from a Mason Mount corner to earn the three points after goal hero of the midweek Champions League win, Olivier Giroud scored the equaliser after Leeds took an early lead.
Substitute Christian Pulisic put the icing on the cake deep into added time - a nice slide from close range tucking the ball pst Meslier.
The only downside to the game was the apparent hamstring injury to Hakim Ziyech who will miss the dead rubber of a home Champions League match against Krasnodar on Tuesday.
It’s the first time Chelsea hit top spot in the league since September 2018.
Hakim Ziyech forced Meslier into a good block in the first minute after Tiago Silva bisected the Leeds defence. From he resultant corner Olivier Giroud was inches wide from a Mason Mount corner as the striker’s header zipped past the near post.
But within three minutes, and with the first attack by the visitors, a ball by Kalvin Philips set up in-running Patrick Bamford who took the ball past Mendy and slotted home into an empty net.
It was the ex-Blues striker’s eight league goal of the season.
Bizarrely on 10 minutes, a Giroud glancing header was edging towards the far post but Timo Werner intervened, perhaps thinking the ball was going wide, and cracked the ball against the underside of the Leeds crossbar and the ball was cleared.
Giroud then intercepted a poor kick out by Meslier but screwed is edge-the penalty area shot wide of goal on 22 minutes.
But up he popped five minutes later in the six-year box to volley home an inch-perfect Reece James right byline cross after Ziyech teed the right backup.
But a minute later, Ziyech hobbled off with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Christian Pulisic.
There were no changes by Dier side at half-time.
Meslier produced two terrific saves to thwart Werner on 61 minutes as the. Lies took control,of the game and a minute later, from another Mount corner, Kurt Zouma leaped unchallenged to smash home a powerful header to put the Blues 2-1 up.
Head coach Frank Lampard made his first change on 67 minutes, Kai Havertz coming off for Mateo Kovacic.
It should have been three to the Blues with 15 minutes to go but a Werner shot was again saved by the young French goalkeeper.
This was quickly followed by Giroud missing a sitter from close range. That was the end of Giroud’s night and he was replaced by Tammy Abraham on 79 minutes.
Deep into added time, Chelsea broke with Werner racing clear on the right, and into the Leeds area, before squaring the ball to in-running Pulisic who slide the ball home from close range to make it 3-1.
Chelsea, Mendy, James, Zouma, Thiago Silva, Chilwell, Havertz, Kante, Mount, Ziyech, Giroud, Werner
Subs: Kepa, Rudiger, Jorginho, Abraham, Pulisic, Kovacic, Azpilicueta
Leeds Utd, Meslier, Arlington, Koch, Cooper, Dallas, Dias Belloli Raphinha , Klich, Phillips, Alioski, Harrison, Bamford
Subs: Poveda-Ocampo, Roberts, Casilla, Llorente, Helder Costa, Rodrigo, Struijk