A leaping header from France defender Wesley Forfana earned Chelsea a rare goal and Premier League win against struggling Leeds United in a nervous encounter on Saturday, easing some pressure on coach Graham Potter.
Chelsea were dominant in the first half and on-loan Portuguese Joao Felix rattled the bar but it was not until the 53rd minute that Fofana put away Ben Chilwell’s corner. Fans greeted the goal – only the second scored at home in 2023 – with surprise and relief.
It was the first win since Jan. 15 for Potter’s side who were forced to defend in numbers in the second half as Leeds, who have earned only six points away from home this season, sought an equaliser.
“It’s a confidence boost and a morale boost,” Potter said, while Leeds coach Javi Gracia, who took over at the Yorkshire club only 10 days ago, described the defeat as “frustrating”.
Chelsea had two golden chances in the first half, when Kai Havertz was through on goal waited half a second too long to shoot and his chip was well saved by advancing goalkeeper Illan Meslier in the 15th minute.
Seven minutes later Raheem Sterling cut the ball back for Joao Felix but his shot hit the bar.
Joao Felix also shot wide from a Chilwell cross and Fofana headed over the bar from a corner.
Wing back Chilwell, who has missed much of the season through injury, proved the difference for Chelsea and, along with Joao Felix and Sterling, was involved in most of their dangerous moves.
“Ben has got stronger and stronger as the weeks have gone on and he was really effective today and contributed to our first half performance,” Potter said.
After Potter withdrew Sterling and Joao Felix midway through the second half, the home side were pinned back by Leeds who surged forward but were ultimately toothless.
Weston McKennie and captain Luke Ayling both sent second-half shots wide. In stoppage time Meslier joined his team mates in the Chelsea area for a corner and connected with the ball but his solid header went straight into the arms of Chelsea counterpart Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The narrow and not entirely convincing win leaves Chelsea in 10th place but is a boost before their second leg last-16 Champions League game with Dortmund at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, when they need to score twice to overcome a 1-0 deficit. “It’s a massive game,” Potter said.
Leeds remain a point above the relegation zone.