Chelsea went top of the Premier League as they came from behind to beat Leeds United in their first game in front of fans for nine months.
Former Blues striker Patrick Bamford, who spent five years at Chelsea without making a senior appearance, gave Leeds an early lead at Stamford Bridge after getting between defender Kurt Zouma and keeper Edouard Mendy.
Timo Werner then somehow managed to miss from point-blank range after Olivier Giroud’s flicked header from a corner, the Germany forward hitting the underside of the bar before Leeds cleared.
However, Giroud marked his first league start of the season with his fifth goal of the week, the scorer of all four of Chelsea’s Champions League goals away to Sevilla in midweek poking home from five yards after Reece James’ cross.
Chelsea, who welcomed 2,000 fans back to Stamford Bridge after coronavirus restrictions were eased, went ahead as Zouma headed in from Mason Mount’s corner.
Substitute Christian Pulisic added a late third from Werner’s pass, with the United States winger becoming the 13th different player to score for Chelsea in the Premier League this season.
Chelsea, who started the day third, are one point clear at the top.
Chelsea welcome fans back in style
There were scenes of celebration after the final whistle as Blues boss Frank Lampard went over to applaud fans inside the ground, who gave the players a standing ovation while they headed for the dressing room.
One supporter held up a banner which read “It’s great to be back” and Chelsea certainly relished the occasion as they turned on the style.
When they last moved to the summit after a win at Newcastle on 21 November, Lampard said he was not going to “get excited about being top for five minutes”.
Within a few hours they had been replaced by Tottenham following a win over Manchester City later the same day.
Lampard’s side will at least enjoy being top a while longer this time, although they could be overtaken by Tottenham and Liverpool on Sunday.
Nevertheless, this was a highly satisfactory victory.
While France’s World Cup winner Giroud made the most of his first league start of 2020-21, Werner will wonder how on earth he did not score.
After his astonishing miss, Werner was thwarted on three occasions by Leeds keeper Illan Meslier, while Kai Havertz headed another chance over.
Unbeaten in nine top-flight games, Chelsea are handling the hectic Champions League-Premier League schedule well.
After securing top spot in their European group, Lampard’s men are looking down on all the rest in England.
Bamford makes impact on return
Bamford arrived at Stamford Bridge with a point to prove – and, despite his team’s defeat, left after once again demonstrating he belongs on the Premier League stage.
The 27-year-old was overlooked during his time at Chelsea, leaving for Middlesbrough in 2017 after five years in London without playing a competitive senior game.
In an extraordinary opening, and after the hosts had twice gone close in the first two minutes, Bamford got between Zouma and Mendy to connect with Jack Harrison’s threaded pass to fire Leeds ahead.
It was another classy finish by Bamford, who is now level with Leicester’s Jamie Vardy and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in terms of top-flight goals in 2020-21.
Incredibly, seven of his eight league goals have come away from Elland Road, with Bamford scoring in five of Leeds’ six away games this season.
His side, however, could not capitalise.
Having beaten former leaders Everton in their previous game, they were unable to stop Chelsea from going top.
Before this weekend only Liverpool had more shots in the Premier League than Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
They had another eight against Chelsea but could not respond once Zouma headed the hosts ahead.
Vulnerable at set-pieces – the stats
- Leeds have conceded five goals from set-pieces (excluding penalties) in the Premier League this season, only Leicester have conceded more from such situations (six).
- Oliver Giroud has become the first Chelsea player to score in six consecutive Premier League starts since Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in October 2001. At 34 years and 66 days, he is the oldest player to score in six consecutive Premier League starts.
- Chelsea have won four of their past five Premier League games (drawn one) – indeed, no current Premier League side is on a longer unbeaten run than the Blues (nine – won five, drawn four).
- Leeds have lost three of their past five Premier League games (won one, drawn one), conceding three or more goals in all three defeats.
- Marcelo Bielsa’s side faced 23 shots in this match, their joint-most in a Premier League game this season (also 23 against Manchester City).