GRAFTING Leeds United secured one of their most satisfying points of the Premiership season by holding moneybags Chelsea to a 0-0 draw at Elland Road on Saturday.

The Whites have been lauded for their thrilling brand of attacking football this season but a different approach was needed – and delivered – as the Blues arrived in West Yorkshire in great form.

Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa recognised the difference in class between the two sides but was able to largely nullify Chelsea’s threat.

He said: “We played against a team superior to ours. In the second half especially, in the first half less. We did what was necessary to play a balanced game.

“At the end of the game, the chances of both teams were similar. It’s true the superiority they showed in the first half was superior to what we showed in the second half.

“To be able to play a game like we did, we had to make an enormous effort.”

A more pragmatic Leeds, coupling their high-energy with improved defending, could be the blueprint moving forward when facing the top teams who have greater technical ability, particularly in April when they have successive games against Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United.

Unbeaten in 11 games since Thomas Tuchel took over from Frank Lampard in January, Chelsea were hot favourites for victory against Leeds side which had won only one of their last five.

Those odds were shortened when Leeds skipper Liam Cooper was ruled out by sickness, leaving coach Bielsa to partner Diego Llorente with Pascal Struijk for the first time – the 10th different central defensive combination Leeds have used this season.

United’s defensive worries have been well documented but the new pairing came through an extremely difficult test with flying colours while Illan Meslier kept his ninth clean sheet of the season.

Chelsea, inspired by the brilliant N’golo Kante, controlled midfield possession with their outstanding manipulation of the ball enabling them to break free of the relentless Leeds pressing.

However, for all their smart approach play the closest Chelsea got to scoring was via one of the few mistakes Leeds made in defence.

Ten minutes had elapsed as Luke Ayling thumped a clearance into the back of team-mate Llorente, the ball looping over Meslier on to the bar before being collected by the grateful goalkeeper.

The young French net-minder did produce a fine save in the second half to deny Kai Havertz but the rest of his work didn’t require anything out of the ordinary to keep Chelsea at bay.

Havertz, at £62m-plus costing more than the entire Leeds starting XI, missed a couple of chances in the first half but it was far from one-way traffic with Chelsea goalie Edouard Mendy producing the two best saves of the match.

His fingertips brushed a brilliant curling chip by Tyler Roberts on to the bar and in the second half adjusted superbly to thrust out a hand to deny a close range shot by Raphinha.

There were other moments of danger too as Leeds maintained their record of not losing three on the bounce, while Chelsea have now conceded only two goals since former Paris St Germain coach Tuchel’s arrival.

Leeds were dealt a blow in the first half when they lost top scorer Patrick Bamford, on his 100th appearance for the club, to injury in front of the watching England boss Gareth Southgate.

In his absence Roberts, alternating between number 10 and number 9, did well but Leeds have not scored in their last three games so will be hoping that Bamford will be available for Friday night’s trip to Fulham (8pm).


LEEDS UNITED: Meslier, Ayling, Llorente, Struijk, Alioski, Phillips, Dallas, Harrison (Helder Costa 64), Raphinha, Tyler Roberts, Patrick Bamford (Rodrigo 35 - Klich 79). Subs (not used): Casilla, Koch, Poveda, Berardi, Shackleton, Jenkins. Cautions: Roberts, Alioski, Rodrigo

CHELSEA: Mendy, Azilicueta, Chistensen, Rudiger, Chilwell, Kante, Jorginho, Pulisic (James 68), Ziyech (Werner 69), Mount (Hudson-Odoi 79), Havertz. Subs not used: Kepa, Alonso, Zouma, Kovacic, Giroud, Emerson

Ref: Kevin Friend Att: Behind closed doors