Leeds United in must-win territory now if they are to save their Premier League status

Leeds United could be 90 minutes away from losing their Premier League status after another opportunity to ease their relegation worries was spurned at Elland Road.

By Tony Harber
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 8:30 am

While it was always going to be a tough task to beat a top three Chelsea side it quickly became an impossible task as the Whites conceded a goal in the first five minutes again and were down to 10 men from the 24th minute following the sending off of Dan James.

The Londoners rarely got out of second gear to complete a 3-0 win over a United side once more showing plenty of effort, but looking all over the place at times.

Jesse Marsch was without a number of key players, but picked a strange line-up with four centre-backs, best attacker Raphinha at right wing-back and young midfielder Lewis Bate given a surprise first Premier start.

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Dan James is shown a red card by referee Anthony Taylor to the despair of Kalvin Phillips.

It did not work and although there were changes of personnel and a tweaking of the system through the game Leeds rarely looked like scoring and seem to have lost their attacking spark.

They must find it quickly because if results go wrong elsewhere on Sunday and the Whites also lose to Brighton they will be relegated.

There are no second chances from now on - and they look like having to do it without up to eight first teamers, either injured or suspended, with James now done for the season and Jack Harrison and Raphinha having to come off with knocks.

Obviously the red card for James, leaving United with so long to play with 10 men, had an effect on the game, but they were already struggling to make an impact after conceding to Chelsea's first attack with Reece James given the freedom of Elland Road on the right wing to pass to Mason Mount who curled in a fine shot from the edge of the box.

Lewis Bate has a shot blocked on his first Premier League start for Leeds United against his former club, Cheslea.

Mount came close to a second goal soon after before Leeds had their one effort of the first half with Diego Llorente shooting wide from the edge of the area.

James received his marching orders from referee Anthony Taylor not long after that as despite winning the ball he was deemed to have not been in control when making a tackle on Mateo Kovacic, who was injured and had to go off.

For the second successive game Leeds now had a long time to play with 10 men and although they stuck to their task they could rarely hurt their opponents.

Chelsea, with an FA Cup final just round the corner, kept control of the game, but played at their own pace and also rarely looked like adding to their lead in the opening half, aside from a Romelu Lukaku header that flashed inches wide and a couple of efforts rightly ruled out by offside flags that were produced late, as is the awful modern way.

The second half saw the visitors show a bit more intent as Lukaku sent a header over and Ruben Loftus-Cheek shot wide.

They made it 2-0 when the home defence stood off them and watched as Mount's flick set up Christian Pulisic to pass the ball in from the edge of the box.

Pulisic shot wide just after and Lukaku was not far wide after turning Liam Cooper and running to the edge of the area.

Leeds then had a brief flurry with Raphinha sending a near post header over from a Junior Firpo cross.

But it was 3-0 when Llorente lost possession in his own half and the ball was played into Lukaku who seemed to toy with three defenders before hammering his shot into the net for a goal his efforts had deserved.

Robin Koch headed over for Leeds after getting forward from the right wing-back role he had been given in the second half, but there was no way back for the team and they did not really deserve it.

Head coach Marsch refused to blame James for the red card that effectively gave his team little chance of winning.

He said: "Obviously we've had two tackles in the last two games that are a little bit crossing the line and hurt the team.

"But I'm not going to blame or finger point to any of our players because they have given everything they can. They are so committed and they deserve more.

"I'm just trying to do everything I can to help them to earn it.

"First I felt it wasn't a red, I haven't seen it yet but I was told it was a red. Dan said he didn't mean to do it, he was just trying to be aggressive and win the ball and caught him in a bad way.

"We want to be aggressive but certainly not cross the line. We have to be aggressive against the ball, try to win balls and sometimes we've now been too aggressive in certain situations and that has cost us."

Marsch was not sure about the extent of the injuries to Raphinha and Harrison, but did say that the former was taken off as more of a precaution.

On the big games now coming up at home to Brighton and then away at Brentford when they may well to have to win both to stay up, the coach said: "We want to learn from these moments so we don't repeat these kinds of situations and mistakes.

"We have six points left. We have to do everything we can to stay mentally strong."

Chelsea 3

(Mount 4, Pulisic 55, Lukkaku 83)

Premier League

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Leeds: Meslier; Koch, Llorente, Cooper; Raphinha (Gelhardt 78), Phillips, Bate (Klich 59), Struijk; James (sent-off 24), Harrison (Firpo 37); Rodrigo.

Chelsea: Mendy; Chalobah, Rudiger, Christensen; James (Azpilicueta 78), Jorginho, Kovacic (Loftus-Cheek 30) Alonso; Pulisic (Ziyech 78), Mount, Lukaku.

Attendance: 36,549.

Referee: Anthony Taylor