Edouard Mendy shines to deny Leeds as Thomas Tuchel remains unbeaten with Chelsea

Leeds 0-0 Chelsea: The Senegalese was excellent between the sticks with the Blues unable to click in the final third

Melissa Reddy
Senior Football Correspondent
Saturday 13 March 2021 14:47

An encounter that possessed multiple hallmarks to become an epic ended goalless, with Leeds United’s spell of 18 successive league games without a draw stopped by Chelsea at Elland Road.

Thomas Tuchel’s impressive start as Frank Lampard’s successor continued, collecting another clean sheet and remaining unbeaten in 12 matches across all competitions, having conceded only twice.

The only black mark is that despite extreme riches in attacking talent, they have yet to come alive in the final third.

But their framework without the ball, being an exceptionally difficult team to beat, will ultimately promote the offensive brilliance to follow. 

It is Leeds that can point to having the clearest opportunities to score in Saturday’s early kick off.

In the build-up, there was a tempering of the theory that the hosts would present the most taxing threat to Chelsea’s defensive fortification under Tuchel, given they had not scored in their last two league defeats. 

Bielsa’s charges had also failed to find the net in the first half of their previous five top-flight fixtures, while conceding a staggering 29 times before the break this season.

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To water down the problems they pose to the opposition, however, is folly.

Leeds partly circumvented their trend on what was a horridly dry pitch. They were not breached prior to the interval, but still could not finish off some fine attacking play.

Chelsea - featuring six changes to the starting XI with Wednesday’s Champions League battle with Atletico Madrid in mind - had control of the ball and shape of the game, yet the hosts had a goal disallowed for offside and hit the woodwork.

A snapshot of Leeds’ predatory play was provided early on. After being supplied by Christian Pulisic’s low cross from the right, Kai Havertz was unable to force home from close range.

A mere 17 seconds later, former Chelsea boy Patrick Bamford had supplied Tyler Roberts to convert a trademark Leeds counter, but it was ruled out for offside.

Ezgjan Alioski battles for possession with Christian Pulisic

The move started with Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier gathering from Havertz’s miss and launching the ball to the striker down the right.

Bamford calmly squared to Roberts, but he had not timed his run quite well enough. A frantic start to the match was painted with a piece of absurdity. Pulisic and Havertz were trying to conjure a chance on the right and Luke Ayling intervened to clear.

His hoof accidentally hit Diego Llorente, stationed right next to him, with the ball lifting over the stranded Meslier, off the crossbar and into the relieved keeper’s arms.

From the bizarre, there was a passage of beauty. Roberts spun and smartly directed a curler towards the top right, the ball dipping perfectly.

Edouard Mendy managed to get his fingertips to the effort to foil what would have been a great goal.

Leeds had struck the woodwork at both ends and Antonio Rudiger had to pull off two bits of defensive excellence.

Chelsea were working pretty patterns in possession and fashioning almost moments, but it was home side that went closest to affecting the scoreline.

Their attacking weaponry was reduced with Bamford being substituted off after banging his hip in a tussle with Rudiger. Rodrigo was his replacement.

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Mason Mount had darted a glorious diagonal towards Hakim Ziyech’s feet but Kalvin Phillips got across quickly to cover.

Chelsea upped the ante at the onset of the second period, with Cesar Azpilicueta’s rapid run down the right ending with a ball to Havertz.

Meslier tipped his drive over the bar. Just as Tuchel’s men looked a certainty to break the deadlock, Raphinha was on the end of the best chance of the second half.

Timo Werner is challenged by Ezgjan Alioski

His swivelled from the penalty spot with his back to goal and aimed for the bottom right.

He was denied by brilliant goalkeeping from Mendy, who had anticipated a shot in the opposite direction, but the Senegalese adjusted and smothered the ball with a strong hand.

Superb play from Havertz  and Mount dummies should have counted as an assist for Ben Chilwell. But the left-back rushed and sliced an effort well wide.

The fast pace faded and the closing minutes were marked by substitute Rodrigo being taken off by Bielsa. It was the second time this season it has happened to the Spain international, who was also hooked after being sent on against Sheffield United.

Chelsea continue to be the best of the rest under Tuchel, keeping a fourth consecutive league clean shutout for the first time since December 2017.

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