Chelsea bolster top four bid, Leeds beaten in Marsch opener

Chelsea shrugged off the drama over Roman Abramovich’s decision to sell the club as Kai Havertz inspired a 4-0 rout of Premier League strugglers Burnley, while Leeds manager Jesse Marsch suffered a 1-0 defeat at Leicester in his first game on Saturday.

All Premier League captains wore Ukrainian armbands over the weekend and clubs held a minute’s applause in solidarity with the country after the Russian invasion.

The war indirectly took its toll on Chelsea, with Russian oligarch Abramovich putting the club up for sale, fearing British government sanction for his alleged links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Abramovich’s vast investment has delivered 19 major trophies during his 19-year reign, including the Champions League and Club World Cup under current boss Thomas Tuchel.

But Chelsea face an uncertain future in the post-Abramovich era, putting pressure on Tuchel to keep the team on track during the transition to new ownership.

Champions League qualification is essential to that ambition and third-placed Chelsea remain on track after snuffing out third-placed Burnley at Turf Moor.

After Chelsea fans chanted Abramovich’s name during the applause for Ukraine, Reece James put them ahead in the 47th minute with a ferocious finish.

Havertz doubled the lead with a header from Christian Pulisic’s cross five minutes later.

German striker, again replacing club record Romelu Lukaku, scored three goals in nine minutes with a close-range strike from James’s cross.

Pulisic tapped in Chelsea’s fourth goal in the 69th minute from Saul Niguez’s deflected cross.

Chelsea’s third straight league win saw them move six points clear of fourth-placed Manchester United.

Marsch was hired to save Leeds from relegation after replacing Marcelo Bielsa.

But he was unable to spark an immediate improvement in their fortunes as Harvey Barnes pocketed the winner in the 67th minute.

After a string of fine saves from Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, Barnes struck with a cool finish from inside the box.

Marsch is just the second American to take charge of a Premier League club following Bob Bradley’s brief stint at Swansea in 2016.

Sacked by RB Leipzig in December after a disappointing five months, Marsch has a huge job to do to change the perception of American coaching while keeping Leeds afloat.

Leeds have lost their last five games and sit just two points above the relegation zone.

“After four days together and after changing a lot of tactics, I’m really proud of the band,” Marsch said.

“We’re getting to know each other. To play so well in a tough place, it doesn’t seem fair that we didn’t get what we deserved, but that’s sport. A big first step for us.”

Ivan Toney’s hat-trick gave Brentford their first win in 10 league games as the Bees moved six points clear of the relegation zone with a 3-1 win bottom of the Norwich table.

Christian Eriksen provided the assist for Toney’s first game on his first competitive start since suffering cardiac arrest while playing for Denmark in last year’s European Championship.

Newcastle extended their unbeaten streak to eight league matches with goals from Ryan Fraser and Fabian Schar earning a 2-1 win over Brighton at St James’ Park.

In serious relegation trouble when Eddie Howe took over as manager, Newcastle are now seven points clear of the bottom three.

Aston Villa beat Southampton 4-0 thanks to goals from Ollie Watkins, Douglas Luiz, Philippe Coutinho and Danny Ings.

Jean-Philippe Mateta and Wilfried Zaha scored in Crystal Palace’s 2-0 win over Wolves.

Later on Saturday, second-placed Liverpool can move within three points of leaders Manchester City if they beat West Ham at Anfield.

City take on Manchester United on Sunday, giving Jurgen Klopp’s side a chance to pressure the champions ahead of the derby at the Etihad Stadium.

smg/jc

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