LEEDS -- This might have been a classically English clash of north and south, the metropolitan elite set low by the working class, but it was America's finest who carried Leeds United to a remarkable 3-0 victory over Chelsea at Elland Road on Sunday.
US international Brenden Aaronson got this remarkable rout rolling in the first half, forcing an error from the increasingly erratic Edouard Mendy with the sort of intense pressing that Jesse Marsch wants to define his tenure in Yorkshire. As Tyler Adams stamped his mark on midfield, MLS graduate Jack Harrison ripped through the Blues' defense, providing the second with a free kick planted onto Rodrigo's head before he bundled in the third in the second half.
Thomas Tuchel might have been banned for this game, but the one-match suspension he was handed for his dust up with Antonio Conte last week. By full time he might have wished he had stayed in London.
Against one of their great rivals, Leeds did not lack for intensity from the outset. Within just two minutes the outstanding Adams had robbed Conor Gallagher of possession in midfield, unleashing the flying quartet at the top of the pitch who asked so many questions of the visiting defense.
Meanwhile Aaronson proved to be a constant thorn in the side of more than just Edouard Mendy, a deft turn in midfield forcing Kalidou Koulibaly into a yellow card foul after just eight minutes. Tuchel's side crave control but the sheer energy of Leeds dragged this contest towards the chaotic. Certainly the authority that N'Golo Kante or Mateo Kovacic offer in the Chelsea engine room was not provided by Gallagher, whose every touch seemed to trigger another Leeds press.
On the occasions when Chelsea could slip through the lines, they did have some joy in their inside left channel, where Raheem Sterling was an early threat capable of beating Robin Koch at will. One pass from Marc Cucurella would have undone far better backlines than Leeds'; Sterling finished with aplomb but had drifted offside.
It was to Leeds credit that they gummed up that particular avenue to goal midway through the first half and, as Chelsea ran out of ideas, the threat posed by the hosts only grew. Adams, so often victorious in the loose ball duels, unwittingly deflected the ball into the path of the hard running Rodrigo, who fired wide.
Just behind the Leeds captain, Aaronson followed the ball with puppyish intent. No Chelsea defender was safe to take a touch with the American in pursuit. Mendy would discover that to his cost. The goalkeeper might have thought he had given his man the slip when a dummy sent him flying into the air but Mendy struggled to get the ball out from under his feet on the turn. Others might have given up the chase after that first miscue, not the New Jersey youngster who prides himself on outworking anyone else on the pitch.
A flick of the right boot freed the ball for Aaronson to roll it into across the goal line. Cue bedlam at Elland Road, where they had not seen a win over their rivals in nearly 20 years. Jesse Marsch was no less delirious than the supporters in the ground, hurtling down the touchline in the same fashion that Tuchel had last week against Tottenham, drawing the opprobrium of Antonio Conte in the process.
Though it never threatened to boil over in the same fashion as last week's London derby, there was a simmering rivalry between the two benches early on with Tuchel seemingly calling for Marsch to be booked for his protestations after a Ruben Loftus-Cheek foul. Still by half time the Chelsea head coach seemed too dumbstruck for sideline histrionics as Leeds doubled their lead with another goal bedecked in MLS flair.
Jack Harrison, who played at Wake Forest and professional career began with NYCFC, had looked a little loose with his passing early in the game but more than made amends with a precise free kick to the front post. Rodrigo's flick was far beyond Mendy's reach; the club record signing's fourth goal in three games propelling him to the top of the early Golden Boot rankings.
A switch to 4-3-3 after the interval brought somewhat more control for Chelsea with full backs Cucurella and Reece James both going close before the 65th minute. Freed from responsibility for the build up, Gallagher settled into the role in which he was more comfortable, crashing the box with late runs that caused no little difficulty for the Leeds rearguard. It was curious then to see him withdrawn so that Christian Pulisic could play the same role. He certainly did not look anywhere near as at ease as his fellow USMNT stars.
Still as the Blues chased a foothold in the game the space behind them offered opportunities for Daniel James and Harrison on the counter; the latter might have added to the lead had Loftus-Cheek not got back to put the ball out for a corner.
The combination would pay dividends eventually, Chelsea's defense all at sea as James, who his namesake in blue seemed to have entirely abandoned, lofted a cross to the edge of the six-yard box. Rodrigo had presumably meant to direct the ball towards goal but instead ended up teeing Harrison to tap in the goal that inflicted the joint-heaviest defeat of his tenure on Tuchel. As if matters couldn't get worse, Koulibaly, who had found the pressure of Leeds to be quite the contrast from Serie A's more sedate pace, was handed a second yellow for a trip on Joe Gelhardt. Unlike his manager, there will be no reprieve for the center back that will allow him on the field against Leicester next week. Though on the basis of today's performances you might not be surprised if a fair few of the visitors do not get to keep their place next week, suspension or otherwise.