Chelsea stumble in Champions League chase as Zaha takes a stand


London (AFP) – Chelsea gave the chasing pack in the race for a place in next season’s Champions League hope with a 0-0 draw at Leeds on Saturday, as Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha became the first Premier League player not to take a knee prior to kick-off of a 1-0 win over West Brom.

The Blues remain unbeaten in 12 games since Thomas Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard and kept a 10th clean sheet in that run at Elland Road.

However, Chelsea remain far from prolific at the other end despite the wealth of attacking talent at Tuchel’s disposal.

“We created enough chances and enough touches in the box to score one or two goals. Unfortunately, we didn’t, so we have to live with a draw,” said Tuchel.

“We were not clinical enough in our counter-attacks. We take a 0-0.'”

Kai Havertz kept his place as a false nine with strikers Timo Werner and Olivier Giroud left on the bench and had the visitors’ best chance with a driven effort than Illan Meslier tipped over.

Leeds lost top scorer Patrick Bamford to injury in the first-half, but could have claimed victory themselves as Edouard Mendy made brilliant saves to deny Tyler Roberts and Raphinha.

A point edges fourth-placed Chelsea three points clear of West Ham, who have two games in hand.

Everton also have two games in hand on Tuchel’s men and can move to within two points of Chelsea with victory at home to Burnley later on Saturday.

– ‘Stand tall’ –

Palace moved above Leeds into 11th with a 1-0 win over West Brom with Zaha’s stance before kick-off grabbing the headlines.

The Ivory Coast international stood tall while the rest of his Palace team-mates and their opponents took the knee.

The 28-year-old revealed last month when speaking at the Financial Times’ Business of Football summit that he would no longer perform the gesture against racial injustice, which has been followed by Premier League players, officials and staff since June.

“As a society, I feel we should be encouraging better education in schools, and social media companies should be taking stronger action against people who abuse others online – not just footballers,” Zaha said in a statement.

“I now just want to focus on football and enjoy being back playing on the pitch. I will continue to stand tall.”

Once the action began, Luka Milivojevic scored the only goal from the penalty spot to plunge the Baggies ever closer to a return to the Championship.

Sam Allardyce’s men remain eight points adrift of safety in 19th with just nine games left to save themselves.

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