Wesley Fofana heads Chelsea over Leeds, out of winless skid
Wesley Fofana’s second half goal made the center back Chelsea’s unlikely hero in a tense 1-0 win over Leeds United at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The defender’s goal was just the second scored by Chelsea in its last six games and ends a five-match winless run. Chelsea still has only scored multiple goals once since mid-October (against Bournemouth).
WATCH CHELSEA vs LEEDS FULL MATCH REPLAY STREAM - LINK
Leeds had just ended a 10-match league winless run with a 1-0 win over Southampton but was under fire for most of the match. Fortunately, Javi Gracia’s men saw Chelsea waste myriad chances right to the end, as Leeds keeper Illan Meslier thumped a header into the arms of Kepa Arrizabalaga deep in stoppage time.
Chelsea avoids falling into the bottom half with the win, leading 11th-place Aston Villa on goal differential. The Blues’ 34 points are five off seventh place and 11 outside the top four.
Leeds lose for the 13th time and sit 17th with 22 points. They could finish the weekend in the Premier League’s bottom three if Everton beats Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
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Blues refuse to make it easy, leave 1-0 in the balance
What a time it must be for Graham Potter, who is looking at his team’s defending, shape, fight, and saying, ‘Yep. Yep. Yep.’ right til he gets to the final ball.
It’s funny and fitting that Wesley Fofana, not only not a forward but also not even the likeliest to score Fofana on Chelsea’s books, got the goal to give Chelsea a lead.
We mentioned last week how poor Chelsea has been when it comes to getting goals. Well, today let’s talk about how part of that is making terrible decisions even before getting into to shooting positions.
Credit to Leeds’ Tyler Adams, who spent several first-half moments conducting clean-up on aisle Midfield, but teams like Chelsea shouldn’t be letting defensive midfielders easily close down odd-numbered breaks as easily as opponents are doing it against the Blues this year.
Then there’s a Kai Havertz break down the right where the German was played brilliant through to goal by Raheem Sterling but instead carried the ball closer and closer to goal until he was at the distance where it would’ve been more odd if Illan Meslier didn’t get a piece of his bid toward goal.
Mykaylo Mudryk, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Hakim Ziyech were then unused subs. It was a weird one for Chelsea, who deserved the win but not as much as their supporters will feel they deserve the ability to watch a game against Leeds without hyperventilating through the final whistle.
Leeds in big trouble without Rodrigo
It was nice for Javi Gracia to get a 1-0 win over Southampton last time out, a team that is in worse position than Leeds, but the problem for him is that Saints aren’t on the schedule every week.
Leeds, as we’ve noted during the tenures of Marcelo Bielsa and Jesse Marsch, don’t have a problem with effort and they kept scrapping through an away day that Chelsea that’s rarely going to go their way (Yes, even as poor as Leeds has been this year).
Leeds rattled off 11 shots but none were on target and at least half appeared to be perfectly speculative rather than the culmination of a plan. Every time a Leeds game begins without Rodrigo, the question of who might show that cleverness and cutting edge is in question. Rodrigo has 10 of Leeds’ 29 Premier League goals. Crysencio Summerville (4) is the only other player with more than two.
Leeds are also 1W-1D-5L when Rodrigo doesn’t play, and that includes a scoring just three goals since Feb. 5 in Premier League (two coming in a 2-2 draw with Man United).
Tyler Adams, Junior Firpo, Maxilimian Wober, Crysencio Summerville, and Weston McKennie all worked toward their goals but it was mainly Chelsea’s inability to find a second goal that left the game in the balance. After all, Leeds seemed almost certain not to score two.
Chelsea vs Leeds player ratings: Stars of the Show
Wesley Fofana: A goal, 76-of-79 passes completed, and 5-of-5 in the air. Would’ve probably been here for the goal alone, but good to see him back. Still under 10 appearances this season.
Enzo Fernandez: He’s going to drag around his price tag for years but show pretty much any Chelsea appearance to someone with a neutral mind and they’ll pick him as a MOTM contender. Brilliant.
Ben Chilwell: Terrific service and effervescent buzzing down the left side.
Tyler Adams: Noting that Chelsea’s had trouble finishing, this game could’ve been 3-0 Chelsea at the break if not for the USMNT midfielder who, along with Maximilian Wober, was one of the few Leeds players to hear the opening whistle.
Chelsea hosts Dortmund on Tuesday, down 1-0 in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie. The Blues then visit Leicester City at 10am ET Saturday.
Leeds licks its wounds for a week before meeting -- checks notes -- oh no, it’s rampant Brighton at 10am ET Saturday.
Wesley Fofana goal video: Big back thumps home Ben Chilwell service
Chelsea vs Leeds: Video highlights
How to watch Chelsea vs Leeds live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 10am ET SaturdayTV Channel/Online: Stream via Peacock Premium
Key storylines & (young) star players
All eyes are on Kai Havertz who is the team’s leading scorer but the total is a meager five and only one has come since January 1. Two new Blues have been exceptional since debuting for the club: Enzo Fernandez and Benoit Badiashile. The latter was on the bench in the loss to Spurs and Graham Potter likely won’t make that move again.
Leeds is still without arguably its top performer this season, Rodrigo, but the next group of stars will be there as Maximilian Wober, Tyler Adams, and Marc Roca are available. One other 2022-23 season star, Pascal Struijk, is still waiting to be right following a concussion.
Chelsea team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: N’Golo Kante (hamstring), Thiago Silva (knee), Edouard Mendy (shoulder), Armando Broja (knee), Reece James (hamstring), Christian Pulisic (knee) Mason Mount (abdominal), Cesar Azpilicueta (concussion).
Leeds team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Rodrigo (ankle), Stuart Dallas (thigh), Adam Forshaw (groin) | QUESTIONABLE: Luis Sinisterra (thigh), Liam Cooper (undisclosed), Pascal Struijk (concussion)