On a night of steepling wind and rain right out of the pages of The Damned United, Chelsea followed losing the Club World Cup to Corinthians on Sunday by pitching up at Elland Road to end an exhausting 12,000-mile round trip to Japan.
Lose here and Rafael Benítez would have overseen Chelsea failure in three cup competitions in only the first eight games of a reign unwanted by many of the Blues congregation. It would have also have brought nearer that inevitable sound of the executioner's song all Chelsea managers hear one day from Roman Abramovich.
Whereas the exit from the Champions League was virtually a fait accompli the moment Juventus handed them the 3-0 stuffing that ended Roberto Di Matteo's tenure, a reverse in West Yorkshire would have left only the FA Cup and the Premier League for Chelsea to have a tilt at. As Benítez's gang could be 16 points behind Manchester United when they next kick-off – at 4pm on Sunday, against Aston Villa – the likelihood of reclaiming the championship feels remote so this was a victory required to firm up morale after Sunday's disappointment and to keep them believing in the Spaniard.
After overseeing that 1-0 defeat in Yokohama Benítez had walked off at half-time here with the home fans taunt of "You're getting sacked in the morning" echoing in his ears. These were prompted by Luciano Becchio's 37th-minute strike that had been greeted with a roar that felt like it might split the skies and was then followed by some satisfied verses of "We are Leeds".
If further derision was piled on when Victor Moses's finish before the interval was ruled offside, as the sides took their breather a rivalry born in the sepia-tinged era of the early 1970s felt like as if it had been fully resumed despite the eight-year gap since their last meeting.
Neil Warnock, the Leeds United manager who once turned down the Chelsea post, wrote in his programme notes: "Good evening and welcome to this eagerly anticipated tie against our big rivals Chelsea, the current club champions of Europe, and I'm sure they'll want to progress in this competition with them being favourite."
Benítez is hardly a favoured acquaintance of Warnock, who revealed he had been threatened with legal action by the Spaniard after accusing him of fielding a weakened team in 2007 that helped get Warnock's then Sheffield United side relegated.
The side issue of whether the pair would shake hands at the start – after Warnock suggested he might not – was settled by a quick clasp of the hands and then, inside a raucous ground, the tackles flew in and the fans began their barbs.
Some of these were distasteful. After 28 minutes, there was a chant that mentioned "Jimmy Savile" from the travelling support, and moments later "Gary Glitter" – though from which support this emanated was unclear.
There was better humour when the Blues faithful's song of "You're only here for the Chelsea" was answered by "You're only here to watch the Leeds" but there was none when Frank Lampard piled into El Hadji Diouf late and the visiting captain went in Andre Marriner's book.
This had Benítez straight over to Mike Jones for a word and his ongoing chat with the fourth official caused him to be informed by the majority of the stadium that he was only a "fat Spanish waiter". Leeds marginally deserved their lead as the sides wandered back out to resume the festivities as there had been few chances for either team, so it was about who could take theirs.
Within 65 seconds Chelsea began this process with a second-half goal-rush of five strikes that killed the contest. First, Juan Mata beat Jamie Ashdown then further goals came from Branislav Ivanovic, Moses, Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres.
Warnock had also written: "Chelsea showed last weekend in their defeat in the Club World Cup final how there are such thin lines between success and failure in football. I had to laugh when one of the Corinthians players who got fouled rolled over nine times.
"We think we have problems in this country but I don't think we would tolerate that. There was none of that in the famous 1970 FA Cup final when the two sides met. That's when men were men and both sets of players would have turned their noses up at such antics."
Lampard apart, none of a Chelsea starting XI that also featured the heralded names of Petr Cech, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Torres, Mata, and Oscar, would have known of the era Warnock alluded to. All, though, are conscious of the need put up a credible challenge for the Premier League. Next up are Aston Villa, Norwich City, Everton and Queens Park Rangers before the FA Cup trip to Southampton on 5 January. All are winnable. Yet more dropped points and a shock loss at St Mary's and Chelsea will be out of all major competitions bar the consolation continental club tournament, the Europa League, and this, the most junior of them all.
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image: © Jason Bagley