Leeds demolish Chelsea after Édouard Mendy howler sparks emphatic win

There was sound from the raucous Leeds congregation and a relentless fury to their side’s play. It yielded a fine second victory of the season, a fourth Premier League goal for the captain, Rodrigo, and a first one for the eyecatching young US international, Brenden Aaronson.

Most of all Jesse Marsch’s mode of football suggests it was a smart move to sack Marcelo Bielsa in February as the former took over with the team two points above the drop zone. What followed was a final-day survival act and time for Marsch to implement his ideas across a full pre-season.

Seven points thus far and this invigorating dismantling of Chelsea are the fruits. “I could sense before the game that there was no fear,” Marsch said. “Last year every game there was fear. It means we can go out and perform better.”

Thomas Tuchel was out-thought by an opposite number taking charge of only his 15th game in English football. After the handshake episode with Antonio Conte last week, Tuchel warmly did the honours with Marsch, but the Chelsea coach will have to revive his team before the visit of Leicester on Saturday.

As with all of those in blue, Raheem Sterling was bright initially then faded. He went close to opening his Chelsea goalscoring account when Conor Gallagher poked the ball down the left. In blazing sunshine, Sterling skipped infield and unloaded at Illan Meslier’s goal: the stadium hushed for a moment before relief surged from the local support as the ball missed to the goalkeeper’s left.

Sterling was incisive soon again, this time prodding the ball to Mason Mount, who played a no-look pass to Ruben Loftus-Cheek. He should have shot instantly but dawdled and Leeds escaped.

Those in white were effervescent throughout. Aaronson, once of Philadelphia Union and RB Salzburg, was a floating playmaker who shone all game, one surge along the right troubling Kalidou Koulibaly enough for him to yank the No 7 down. The Leeds faithful howled, Stuart Attwell waved a yellow card, and in went a free-kick that Chelsea scrambled clear.

The heat seemed to invigorate the players, who were making this a pageant of action. Sterling beat Meslier but his strike was ruled offside. Almost instantaneously Aaronson again darted at Koulibaly down the right as Leeds swapped possession with a rat-a-tat rhythm.

Rodrigo went close when he swooped along the left channel and fired across Édouard Mendy. The response was impressive: Kai Havertz, on halfway, nodded to Mount, who bamboozled two defenders before Meslier saved a low effort to his left.

For a time Chelsea staged an occupation in Leeds territory. Gallagher, Sterling, Marc Cucurella, Thiago Silva and Jorginho engineered a sequence of keep-ball that had their opponents chasing. Leeds’s way out was to nab possession and, via Rasmus Kristensen, ping another pass to Aaronson down the right. This won a corner that led to nothing, but the 21-year-old was the most likely creator for his team.

A pirouette was followed by a burst into open field and when Aaronson next acted it was decisive. Silva tapped the ball to Mendy, who was about to endure the proverbial nightmare. A Cruyff turn went awry and Aaronson pounced and finished from inches out. The player, Marsch and Leeds’s fans went ballistic.

Next up was double trouble for Chelsea. From the left Jack Harrison stood up a free-kick and Rodrigo, beating a static Reece James, headed sweetly home. Evidence, perhaps, of why Tuchel wants to add Wesley Fofana, the Leicester defender, to stiffen his rearguard. Against a delirious wall of sound, Tuchel stood sullen-faced. What Mendy was thinking in the wake of the error that presaged this passage could surely be guessed.

At the break Leeds were roared off. They deserved it. To the question of whether they could maintain their intensity, the answer was a resounding yes. Daniel James and Rodrigo led the charge by threatening Mendy’s goal when the match resumed. And, if Chelsea attacked, they were squeezed – as Cucurella and Sterling found near the Leeds area.

Tuchel, disenchanted, replaced his midfield, hooking the ineffective Jorginho and Gallagher for Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech. It changed nothing as an afternoon to remember for Leeds was crowned by Harrison scoring the third. A James chip aimed for Aaronson was turned back by Rodrigo and Harrison couldn’t miss. As the contest neared its end Koulibaly grabbed Joe Gelhardt, on as a substitute. Out came Attwell’s red card and Chelsea’s misery was complete.

“We all love Leeds,” the fans sang. This was a scintillating, admirable performance, and Marsch’s charges will arrive at Brighton for the next league outing in buoyant mood.