Chelsea 1-0 Leeds: Player ratings as Fofana heads Blues to much-needed victory
The pressure on Graham Potter was temporarily eased on Saturday as Chelsea secured a 1-0 victory over Leeds United at Stamford Bridge.
Missing key players like Thiago Silva and Reece James, Chelsea reverted to a back three and it was one of those centre-backs, Wesley Fofana, who headed home the winning goal early in the second half.
Chelsea began brightest and had a great chance to open the scoring when Fofana leapt highest to meet Ben Chilwell's corner ten minutes in, but the Frenchman could not keep his header down.
Kai Havertz was then put through on goal by Raheem Sterling but his dinked effort was well kept out by Illan Meslier, a few minutes before Joao Felix's strike from the edge of the box thundered against the bar.
Leeds' first chance came on the half-hour mark as Georginio Rutter set up Brendan Aaronson for a strike which was blocked by Kalidou Koulibaly.
The referee's half-time whistle was met by brief but audible boos from the Stamford Bridge crowd after a first half in which Chelsea were largely on top but failed to make the most of that.
Chelsea came out fast for the second half but Sterling failed to make the most of a good chance just minutes in, first getting the ball stuck in his feet before poking over from a Ruben Loftus-Cheek cross.
The goal finally came 53 minutes in as another Chilwell corner found Fofana once again, but this time, the centre-back powered his header beyond Meslier.
Sterling then bent an effort wide of the post, before a crucial fingertip save from Kepa Arrizabalaga prevented a chance which would have been ruled out for offside anyway.
It was a nervy finish for Chelsea, who watched a Leeds corner fizz straight across the six-yard box, but the Blues held on for a vital three points.
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.
Leeds player ratings (4-2-3-1)
Illan Meslier - 6/10 - A handful of nice saves to keep Chelsea at bay.
RB: Luke Ayling - 5/10 - Regularly lost Chilwell and invited pressure down his wing.
CB: Robin Koch - 6/10 - Kept Havertz quiet well.
CB: Max Wober - 7/10 - Took responsibility for most of Leeds' defending and usually did enough to stop Chelsea from firing.
LB: Junior Firpo - 5/10 - Had a tricky time up against Sterling. Kept up in the foot race but couldn't contain the winger.
DM: Tyler Adams - 6/10 - Great energy to cause problems for Fernandez and Kovacic. A nice, even battle in midfield.
DM: Weston McKennie - 6/10 - Struggled to defend the corners as Chelsea's centre-backs bullied him physically, but was otherwise solid in midfield.
RM: Crysencio Summerville - 7/10 - Grew into the game and was Leeds' most dangerous outlet for the majority of the match.
AM: Brendan Aaronson - 5/10 - Had the odd moment of quality but struggled to contend with Chelsea's physical back three.
LM: Jack Harrison - 4/10 - Rarely involved in attack and unhelpful at the back, despite Firpo clearly needing support against Sterling.
ST: Georginio Rutter - 5/10 - Can't fault the work rate but Rutter was another who found space hard to come by. Wasn't scared of Koulibaly but usually came off second-best.
Wilfried Gnonto (67' for Rutter) - 5/10 - An obvious threat after coming on but guilty of a handful of wasteful moments.
Mateo Joseph (67' for Aaronson) - 5/10 - Failed to make the most of his opportunity.
Sam Greenwood (80' for Harrison) - 5/10 - Didn't get much time to do his thing.
Javi Gracia - 5/10 - Felt like he took a little too long to make any changes. Gnonto could have come on at half-time while Leeds were just getting themselves into the game.