LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea moved to the top of the Premier League as they came from behind to beat Leeds United 3-1 at home on Saturday, set on their way by a fifth goal in four days from striker Olivier Giroud.
The 34-year-old Frenchman marked his first league start of the season – a reward for his four goals in Chelsea’s thrashing of Sevilla in the Champions League on Wednesday – by stretching to turn in a whipped cross by Reece James in the 27th minute.
That cancelled out a fourth-minute opener for Leeds by Patrick Bamford, once on the Blues’ books but who never made a first-team appearance. He latched on to a long ball by Kalvin Phillips and rounded goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to score.
Chelsea created most of the chances and went ahead in the 61st minute when Zouma jumped higher than everyone to power a Mason Mount corner down and into the net.
Christian Pulisic sealed the win in added time when he turned in a cross by Timo Werner.
Giroud has been urged by France coach Didier Deschamps to play more top-flight football before next year’s European Championship, raising speculation he might leave Chelsea in January if he cannot get more game time.
“I feel good and confident. I play with serenity. I had the opportunity to score again today and help the team,” Giroud told BBC television.
He had other chances to score, including a close-range header in the second minute, and he set up fellow striker Timo Werner but the German miscued when almost on the goal line and his snatched second attempt hit the crossbar.
Leeds, back in the top flight after 16 years, looked dangerous on the break in the first half, pouncing on any Chelsea error to flood forward before fading.
“I was nervous of Leeds,” Chelsea coach Frank Lampard said. “They’re a threat until the end if you don’t get a cushion. On another day we could score five or six and finish the game but we are still developing and being more clinical is in that.”
The win pushed Chelsea up to top spot in the table with 22 points, leap-frogging Tottenham and Liverpool who both have 21 and are playing on Sunday. Leeds are in 12th position.
The game marked the return of fans to Stamford Bridge for the first time since March, before the first coronavirus lockdown, giving 2,000 supporters the chance to watch several Chelsea players in the flesh for the first time after the club’s summer spending spree.