In a relegation fight there is a need for aggression, competitiveness and fight. But there is also a requirement for self-control, calm and common sense.
Leeds currently have the balance of that equation hopelessly and haplessly wrong and it threatens to drag them all the way in to the Championship.
Leeds, managed by their new American coach Jesse Marsch, are like a greenhorn heavyweight boxer, too full of adrenaline and nerves. All their energy is spent in the wrong places and on the wrong things.
Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount opened the scoring in the fourth minute
Here, in front of home crowd that is beginning to fear the worst, they imploded in much the same fashion as they had in losing at Arsenal at the weekend.
Bad tackles, bad goals and red cards. It’s a catastrophic combination and Leeds, without a shot on target all night here, now have just two games left in which to try and save themselves from a relegation that nobody saw coming when the season began full of hope under the Argentinean Marcelo Bielsa.
Chelsea were impressive here in dealing with what was in front of them. The English duo Mason Mount and Reece James were particularly good to watch. Mount scored his team’s first goal in the fifth minute before Leeds winger Daniel James was sent off for a horribly out of control lunge at Mateo Kovacic.
Mount scored the game’s opening goal with a first-time effort from outside the box
Was it as bad a tackle as the one that saw his team mate Luke Ayling walk at the Emirates on Sunday? Possibly not but it was dreadful enough and as James trudged off, he took his team’s slim chances of a result with him.
Chelsea had to wait until the 55th minute for their second goal, Christian Pulisic driving in from 18 yards, and until seven minutes from time for their third from Romelu Lukaku.
This was, though, a wholly one-sided game and with Marsch’s team in self-harm mode again it took Leeds no time at all to find a way through for the first goal.
Leeds winger Daniel James was sent off in the 24th minute on Wednesday night
The warning signs were there as soon as the game started. Leeds had a 19-year-old, Adam Bate, making his Premier League debut in the centre of midfield and a forward playing at right wing back. On Tuesday, Marsch had made much of the need to get the talented Brazilian Raphinha further up the field and then selected him as part of his back five.
It was a strange decision and Leeds did indeed look a confused, ragged bunch of players early on. From the very first seconds, players in white were misplacing passes, making hurried decisions and contributing mistakes in dangerous areas. It was a carbon copy of the way they started the game in London at the weekend and once again it was no surprise that the opposition scored.
It was a lovely goal, mind. A really lovely goal. Mount was involved as the play was spread across the field to the Chelsea right and when James pulled the ball back to the England midfielder at the top of the penalty area, he swept it first time high to Illan Meslier’s left and in to the top corner.
James was sent off for a dangerous high tackle on Chelsea midfielder Mateo Kovacic
Chelsea’s own need was great. Their own recent form has not been good enough. Here, given the encouragement they needed, they were persistently dangerous and could have added to their lead quickly.
A low Mount cross from the right was only inches ahead of Lukaku while another Mount shot was deflected wide. Then, in the 34th minute, James crossed neatly for Lukaku who glanced a header an inch or so beyond the back post.
By this time Leeds were down to ten men. Once again mirror images of the Arsenal game were available. The home fans – desperate for something other than their own team’s failings to chew on – were quick to blame referee Anthony Taylor for his decision to show James a red card.
But the truth is that the Welshman’s tackle on Kovacic was wild and reckless. He did make a passing contact with the ball but the follow through in Kovacic’s shin could have impacted serious damage. James walked and not long after, Kovacic also left the field unable to shake off the effects of the assault on his lower leg.
Christian Pulisic doubled Chelsea’s advantage in the second-half against Leeds
Pulisic slotted Mount’s pass into the bottom corner from 20 yards in the 55th minute
On the touchline, Marsch was agitated. The American needs to see improvement in his team at this stage of the season but frankly there was none here. The only saving grace at half-time was that the deficit was only one goal. Chelsea could easily have been out of sight and by the time we reached the hour they had taken another step towards victory.
The flow of play had continued to wash towards the Leeds goal. Lukaku headed a Mount cross over and then in the 55th minute a nice move down the right saw Mount flick the ball in to the path of Pulisic who drove it low in to the corner from 18 yards.
The Leeds crowd didn’t stop supporting their team but they got precious little back in return and seven minutes from the end Diego Llorente lost possession in his own half and after some deliberation Lukaku scored his third goal in two games after being fed by Hakim Ziyech.
Romelu Lukaku – who earlier had a goal disallowed – sealed victory in the 83rd minute
Lukaku held off three Leeds defenders before rifling his shot into the corner of the net