Wesley Fofana scored his first Premier League goal to ease the pressure on Graham Potter as Chelsea beat Leeds United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
A dismal run of one win in 11 games had led to increasing speculation over head coach Potter’s position, but the Blues lifted the gloom with a much-needed victory on Saturday.
Fofana’s towering second-half header eased the tension as mid-table Chelsea ended a run of three consecutive defeats without scoring.
In a clash between two sides who have been so short of a cutting edge this season, it was relegation-threatened Leeds who fired another blank to suffer a first top-flight defeat under new boss Javi Gracia.
Chelsea started with a great tempo and Fofana missed a good chance to put them in front when he headed Ben Chilwell’s corner over.
Kai Havertz should have opened the scoring when he was sent clear, only to be denied by Illan Meslier, before a sweeping Blues move ended with Joao Felix rattling the crossbar after Raheem Sterling picked him out from the byline.
There was a sense of deja vu as Chelsea’s finishing continued to let them down, an unmarked Chilwell volleying wide from inside the penalty area.
That elusive goal finally arrived in the 53rd minute. Fofana rose highest to meet Chilwell’s corner and a powerful header from six yards out gave Meslier no chance.
Leeds reacted well – a measured right-foot strike from Tyler Adams was narrowly wide while Georginio Rutter’s saw an effort blocked by Kalidou Koulibaly.
Chelsea passed up half-chances at the other end, yet Leeds lacked the quality in the final third to inflict any punishment, with Meslier heading at his counterpart Kepa Arrizabalaga from a corner deep in stoppage time.
Their faces say it all! #CheLee pic.twitter.com/wJr7hsKWxX
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 4, 2023
What does it mean? Relief for Potter
Chelsea had been without a victory in six Premier League games since a 1-0 defeat of Crystal Palace on January 15, so there was huge relief when the final whistle sounded.
They were not convincing and the run of failing to score more than once in a Premier League game is now up to 10, but Potter will not care about that for now.
Leeds have suffered six successive top-flight defeats at Stamford Bridge and were in the relegation zone before Arsenal came from two goals down to beat Bournemouth 3-2.
Fofana ends goal drought
Chelsea had scored only once in six games before the Fofana popped up to plant a bullet header beyond a helpless Meslier.
The centre-back was also solid at the heart of the Blues defence on his return to the side with Thiago Silva sidelined due to injury as Leeds were made to pay for their lack of firepower once again.
Chelsea’s lack of a genuine centre forward was evident once more – Havertz unable to find the back of the net when he had a glorious first-half chance. According to Opta’s expected goals (xG) model, it was the second-best opportunity of the game, but Potter needs his forwards to start converting these kind of chances.
The Germany international has not scored since that win over Palace back in January.
Key Opta Facts
– Chelsea picked up just their second win in 12 games in 2023 in all competitions (D4 L6).
– Leeds have lost all four of their away games at London clubs in the league this season.
– Leeds have just six points away from home in the Premier League this season, the joint-fewest of any side, and their lowest after their first 13 away games of a league campaign since 1992-93 (three).
– Fofana is Chelsea’s 13th different Premier League goalscorer this season, with only Arsenal (14) having more in the competition this term (excluding own goals).
– Potter has won four of his six Premier League games against Leeds as a coach (D2), his most wins against an opposing club in the competition.
Chelsea face Borussia Dortmund at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie looking to overturn a 1-0 deficit. Leeds are at home to Brighton and Hove Albion next Saturday.
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