Chelsea Elland Road comedy show leaves Leeds United laughing - Graham Smyth's Verdict on shock win

Three points in the context of a 38-game season is just one small step for Leeds United but beating Chelsea 3-0 is a giant leap for Jesse Marsch.
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Football produces such joy because it throws up the most unexpected of events but also because, sometimes, it's just very funny. Laugh out loud funny.

Thomas Tuchel wasn't laughing when his goalkeeper lost the ball under his feet and let Brenden Aaronson nutmeg him in order to find an unguarded net, but Elland Road was in stitches.

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Rodrigo heading in a second four minutes later had more than 33,000 Whites laughing in disbelief. When the third went in, from the boot of Jack Harrison, even the Premier League table was hilarious. Leeds were second, Chelsea 12th and Manchester United 19th.

From then on it was pure schadenfreude. The red-carded Kalidou Koulibaly went down the tunnel to a backdrop of cheerful waves, Tuchel threw a tantrum at the fourth official to the soundtrack of Yorkshire glee.

At full-time Eddie Gray was hugging all and sundry, a smile the width of the West Stand splitting his face and his sides splitting.

More fun and games came a little later when Tuchel flatly refused to credit Leeds' style of play or even their performance for their result, placing it firmly at the doorstep of his own side's failings. Bemoaning the botched travel plans that meant a bus trip from London to Leeds for Chelsea's coaching staff was another cracker.

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The laughter in pubs all across the city as those quotes dropped onto smartphones could almost be heard at Elland Road.

ALL SMILES - Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams share a moment after a stunning 3-0 Leeds United victory over Chelsea at Elland Road. Pic: GettyALL SMILES - Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams share a moment after a stunning 3-0 Leeds United victory over Chelsea at Elland Road. Pic: Getty
ALL SMILES - Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams share a moment after a stunning 3-0 Leeds United victory over Chelsea at Elland Road. Pic: Getty

Getting one over on an historic rival is a special thing, a moment to be cherished. Chelsea will almost inevitably finish above Leeds this season yet it mattered not a jot on Sunday and it probably never will, because this result will never fail to make Whites chuckle fondly.

Amid a tide of mirth that will carry Leeds through the week, regardless of the Carabao Cup result on Wednesday, there was serious credit to be dished out, regardless of what Tuchel said.

This was not only the best performance of Marsch's six-month tenure at Leeds, it was better than anything that occured at Elland Road last season and right up there with the games the empty stadium witnessed in the post-promotion campaign.

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It felt necessary, too, not because Leeds have started poorly or because there is any pressure on the manager but simply because it was always going to take something big to help those reluctant to move on from the previous head coach.

Even if, in the wake of the win, Marsch was happy to concede he will still have doubters in the fanbase, they will be fewer in number now.

Some may never take to him, of course, and that's something else he acknowledged, yet performances and results like this one will leave next to no one sitting on the fence.

"There’s gonna be people that like me, there's gonna be people that hate me,” he said.

Maybe so, but no one hates a 3-0 win over Chelsea.

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Of course Mendy's howler helped them gain a solid foothold in the game but what impressed before that was the frenetic pace and how well Leeds coped with it.

Chelsea were always going to have chances, and those were always likely to come out wide. The sight of Raheem Sterling darting onto a ball in behind Rasmus Kristensen after 30 seconds was the very situation Leeds had hoped to avoid but knew to expect.

The £50m man cut inside and should have produced better than the shot that went wide of Illan Meslier's far post.

A breakneck opening 15 minutes saw Leeds create a few problems and half chances of their own, Brenden Aaronson lively enough on the ball to draw Koulibaly into his first yellow-card challenge and waspish enough off it to make the visitors uncomfortable.

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Sterling did put the ball in the net after cutting inside again, only for the flag to go up. Cue the afternoon's first hoots of laughter.

The game did settle down, a little, but Leeds' pressing in the final third asked Chelsea to be incredibly brave on the ball, which invited errors and tackles.

Tyler Adams was a man on a mission all day long, a tackling machine who refused to give an inch, and his challenge deep in the Chelsea half sent the ball looping forward for Rodrigo to run into the area and drill a shot wide of the far post.

Chelsea came again, a long ball and two headers putting Mason Mount in space, his low effort read perfectly by Meslier, another man on a mission.

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Leeds stuck to their task and as the half hit the midway point it was only their occasional sloppiness that gave Chelsea encouragement.

So when the goal came, it was every bit as deserved as it was amusing. Mendy dallied long enough on the ball that Aaronson got in around him, poked through the keeper's legs and dribbled it into the empty net.

Four minutes later Leeds were living the dream after producing something a little more crafted. Sterling's trip on Marc Roca handed the hosts a free-kick to the left of the area, Harrison curled it to the near post and Rodrigo flicked a header past Mendy into the far corner.

The Spaniard, who wore the captain's armband, is threatening to rewrite his Leeds story entirely. Four goals in three games and his commitment to Marsch's work ethic have given him foundations on which he could build the kind of season expected of a £27m signing.

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As he danced his way to the cornerflag in celebration the big question looming over his side was whether or not they could hold on.

A week prior they gave up a two-goal lead at Southampton and a second half Chelsea onslaught felt inevitable. If there was laughter at half-time it was of the nervous variety.

It didn't take long for Chelsea to create after the break, either, Marc Cucurella blasting over the top after a smartly-worked move.

Leeds had to stream back to halt a counter-attack from their own corner, Robin Koch making a vital block, and Conor Gallagher pushed a shot just past the post, via a nick.

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Adams retained his intensity, Harrison proved a more-than-reliable outlet for the ball, his quick feet bamboozling a succession of blue shirts, and the back four held firm but Chelsea kept coming, getting into good positions and threatening Meslier's goal. He did very well to tip a Reece James drive past his post.

Leeds weathered the storm, though, and hit back, incredibly, with a third. Daniel James' cross for Aaronson dropped to Rodrigo, he poked it forward and Harrison hooked it in.

That was the game won, even before Koulibaly's second yellow for hauling down Joe Gelhardt, whose grin over his shoulder at the defender said it all.

The striker was one of five substitutes used by Marsch and to a man they kept up the intensity and nuisance factor that had made life miserable for their visitors. Mateusz Klich, in particular, relished the task, much to Tuchel's chagrin and the West Stand’s delight. Never was it more evident than when Reece James, one of the most impressive performers for the visitors, was dogged by Sam Greenwood, nudged by Klich and blocked off by Pascal Struijk. The rueful look on the England man's face told a tale. He and Chelsea looked like they had been beaten up.

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Leeds playing with such physicality without taking a yellow was one of several impressive aspects to a win that was celebrated as it ought to have been by Marsch and his men. There were ovations for so many and they were all deserved.

Last season was no laughing matter. It was a tense, grind of a campaign that took a toll on the entire club, so any form of light relief is welcome at Elland Road, let alone a stunning victory like this, the likes of which no one saw coming.

Football is like that. It can make a mug of you and a mockery of your predictions, but sometimes its surprises are pleasant. Sometimes all you can do is laugh. Maybe one day Tuchel will be able to look back and do just that. It's a funny old game, after all.