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Chelsea get Champions League bid back on track on another sorry night for Leeds

Christian Pulisic celebrates scoring Chelsea’s second goal (Mike Egerton/PA)
Christian Pulisic celebrates scoring Chelsea’s second goal (Mike Egerton/PA)

Chelsea got their Champions League bid back on track and left 10-man Leeds deeper in the relegation mire with a comfortable 3-0 win at Elland Road.

Mason Mount’s early strike and second-half goals from Christian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku halted Chelsea’s three-game winless run and lifted them four points clear of London rivals Arsenal in third place.

It was a timely win for Thomas Tuchel’s side, who had dropped 10 points in their previous five matches, before Saturday’s FA Cup final against Liverpool.

For Leeds, it was another night to forget. They slumped to a third straight defeat to remain in the bottom three and had a man sent off for the second time in successive matches.

Jesse Marsch’s side played for 66 minutes with 10 men after Dan James’ straight red card for his ill-judged lunge on Mateo Kovacic.

James’ dismissal followed a similar rush of blood by team-mate Luke Ayling in Sunday’s defeat at Arsenal and Leeds subsequently never threatened to add to their points tally.

Mount followed up his pass out to the right flank in the fourth minute and when Reece James played the ball back inside, the England midfielder slammed home the opening goal.

Leeds United v Chelsea – Premier League – Elland Road
Daniel James is shown a red card for a tackle on Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic (Mike Egerton/PA)

Leeds, who handed teenage midfielder Lewis Bate his first league start and kicked off with Raphinha at right wing-back, appeared at odds with another new formation as Chelsea moved the ball around comfortably.

Chelsea were a whisker away from adding a second when Mount’s cross eluded Lukaku, but Leeds lifted their fans with several forays forward before Diego Llorente fired wide.

Any optimism was short-lived however, as they were reduced to 10 men in the 24th minute when James was shown a straight red card for his challenge on Kovacic.

Leeds fans were furious, but referee Anthony Taylor had no option. James’ tackle was high and reckless and just as they had done at Arsenal, Marsch’s relegation battlers had shot themselves in the foot.

Lukaku thought he had lobbed Chelsea 2-0 up but his effort was ruled out for offside and the Belgium striker then headed James’ cross inches wide.

Such was Chelsea’s dominance, a second goal for the visitors appeared inevitable, while Leeds’ season-long injury woes continued when Jack Harrison limped off and was replaced by Junior Firpo.

Play was briefly halted in the 37th minute after touchline stewards waved for medical assistance for somebody in the away end before Leeds set an unwanted Premier League record before the interval.

Kalvin Phillips hauled down Pulisic and became the 100th Leeds player to be shown a yellow card this season.

Lukaku headed another chance over before Chelsea added their second in the 55th minute.

Pulisic fired a low finish inside Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier’s right-hand post following Mount’s deft flick to all but end the contest.

Lukaku was agonisingly close to making it 3-0 in the 66th minute, but the third goal duly came when Leeds were punished after giving away possession again in their own half.

The Chelsea striker pounced on substitute Hakim Ziyech’s pass into the area and after evading several challenges, slammed home his eighth league goal of the season.

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