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 led to growing speculation about Potter’s position as head coach, but the Blues lifted the gloom with a much-needed win on Saturday.
Fofana’s towering second-half header eased the tension as mid-table Chelsea ended a run of three straight defeats without scoring.
In a clash between two teams who have been so short of the top this season, it was relegation-threatened Leeds who fired another blank to suffer their first top-flight defeat under new boss Javi Gracia.
Chelsea started at a high tempo and Fofana wasted 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 but Illan Meslier denied him before a sweeping Blues move ended with Joao Felix rattling the crossbar after being picked out by Raheem Sterling on the touchline.
There was a sense of deja vu as Chelsea’s finish continued to let them down, an unmarked Chilwell volleying from outside the penalty area.
The elusive goal finally came in the 53rd minute. Fofana rose highest to meet Chilwell’s corner and a powerful header from six yards gave Meslier no chance.
Leeds responded well – Tyler Adams’ measured right-footed strike went just wide, while Georginio Rutter saw an effort blocked by Kalidou Koulibaly.
Chelsea missed half-chances at the other end, but Leeds lacked the quality in the final third to impose any punishment. Meslier headed his counterpart Kepa Arrizabalaga from a corner deep in stoppage time.
Chelsea player ratings (3-4-3)
GK: Kepa Arrizabalaga – 6/10 – Busy without really needing to do anything spectacular.
CB: Wesley Fofana – 8/10 – A really impressive showing from the Frenchman. Comfortable in possession and impactful in attack.
CB: Kalidou Koulibaly – 7/10 – Got away with a slip early on but was otherwise solid. Enjoyed getting a bit physical against Rutter.
CB: Benoit Badiashile – 7/10 – Another top performance. Seems ready to step up in Thiago Silva’s absence.
RM: Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 6/10 – Really struggled to get into the game in attack but was a nice presence at the back. Helped bully Leeds off the ball.
CM: Enzo Fernandez – 6/10 – Showed nice vision to try and make things happen.
CM: Mateo Kovacic – 7/10 – Picked some nice passes and controlled the tempo of the game for Chelsea.
LM: Ben Chilwell – 7/10 – A near-permanent outlet with mixed results in the final third. Some dangerous corners, one of which led to the opener.
RW: Raheem Sterling – 7/10 – Chelsea’s most dangerous forward by far. Involved in nearly everything positive the Blues did.
ST: Kai Havertz – 5/10 – Should’ve done better with his one-on-one and once again failed to offer any major goal threat.
LW: Joao Felix – 6/10 – Buzzed around with a lot of energy and made plenty of things happen, but some rushed passing often saw moves break down around him too.
Conor Gallagher (67′ for Sterling) – 6/10 – Had some nice moments on the ball and played some excellent passes.
Denis Zakaria (67′ for Felix) – 6/10 – A quiet showing.
Carney Chukwuemeka (75′ for Kovacic) – 5/10 – Looked a little rushed at times.
Noni Madueke (84′ for Fernandez) – N/A
Trevoh Chalobah (84′ for Loftus-Cheek) – N/A
Graham Potter – 7/10 – Switching to a back three was absolutely the correct decision, particularly given the injury issues. Chelsea looked significantly more solid. The substitutions were questionable as they left the team without any pace in attack in favour of more midfield control, but a win is a win.