Wesley Fofana’s goal ends Chelsea’s winless run to ease pressure on Graham Potter
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For a moment at least, there is cause for celebration at Chelsea and Graham Potter. Wesley Fofana’s header against Leeds ended a run of over 400 minutes without a goal and arrested a spell of three straight defeats that pushed Potter’s job to the brink. With their first win in six games, part one of Potter and Chelsea’s make-or-break week is complete and they can go into Tuesday’s crucial Champions League last-16 second leg with their spirits lifted slightly.
This 1-0 win over Leeds was not pretty, but the relief at full-time was all that mattered. Chelsea had been booed off following another goalless half but Fofana’s header from Ben Chilwell’s corner eased the tension around Stamford Bridge. It came after Kai Havertz failed to score after being played through on goal and Joao Felix rattled the bar in the first half. Potter’s side had started well but their winless run has followed a clear pattern. Leeds were beginning to assert themselves after Chelsea had wasted their early chances, but Fofana’s goal changed the mood and flipped the script.
It was badly needed, as was an assured performance overall from the 22-year-old as he stepped in for the injured Thiago Silva. Chelsea will be without their player of the season for the next six weeks but Fofana stepped up in what was a patched-up defence, with Reece James another key absence. Fofana and Benoit Badiashile started either side of Kalidou Koulibably in a new-look backline. Chilwell was released at wing-back and was a lively and consistent threat.
Chelsea still look desperately short of goals, with Havertz again struggling to lead the line. The German had Chelsea’s best chance of the first but there was a total lack of conviction in Havertz’s finish after he was played through by Raheem Sterling. Stamford Bridge waited as Havertz closed in on goal but Illan Meslier remained upright to make the save. Felix was more assertive shortly afterwards when Chelsea won another loose ball in midfield and turned forward. Sterling’s cutback was sharp and Felix took on the shot first-time from the edge of the box, but the rising effort smacked off the underside of the crossbar.
When half-time arrived Chelsea had lost their momentum and Leeds sensed an opportunity. Without creating a clear chance, Javi Gracia’s side grew into the game but their hopes were punctured by Fofana’s header. Crysencio Summerville and Brenden Aaronson buzzed in between the lines but failed to seriously threaten. Wilfried Gnonto was dropped to the bench but could not create an opportunity after coming on. Georginio Rutter swung at Luke Ayling’s cross and should have done better from inside the penalty box.
Chelsea’s chances had also looked to have dried up early into the second half. Chilwell, though, always looked likely to be the source if Chelsea were to break their scoring drought. Chiwell was deployed high on the left to counteract the absence of James but the pools of space in which he roamed into was not initially matched by a finishing product – Havertz was again guilty of failing to attack some of the left back’s more inviting deliveries.
It was crucial, therefore, that Fofana showed more conviction as he rose to meet Chilwell’s corner early in the second half. The defender had wasted an earlier chance, again from Chilwell’s outswinging cross, but climbed brilliantly to head past Meslier. It was enough for Chelsea: with Leeds only rallying late on, briefly testing Chelsea with a series of set-pieces. Mateo Joseph fired at Kepa Arrizabalaga before Meslier, thrown forward for the final corner, headed straight at his opposite goalkeeper. For Potter, the win was all that mattered for Chelsea in the end.
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