Chelsea 1 (Fofana 53)
Leeds Utd 0
4th March 2023, Premier League.
Arghhhhh! This is so frustrating! I’m sitting here in front of the laptop with my regular post-game malt in hand and I’m thinking …. “That was pretty much another copy of the standard 2022/23 Leeds United performance”
It was full of spirit and determination and, for the most part, some solid and careful defensive work. Up front, we were limited, no question, but we have been all season. We didn’t really create much in the way of clear-cut chances and, too often, our final ball was all wrong. When we did get sight of the goal we finished poorly, snatching at shots or finding the opposition keeper always in the right place.
Chelsea were no great shakes either and it was easy to see why they have struggled lately, but, in one moment the game was won and lost. Leeds seemingly will always find a way to give up a goal and today it was that old chestnut, the set-piece, a corner kick to be precise. A left-wing Chelsea corner floated into the heart of the Leeds defence, a huge leap by Fofana, easily outjumping McKennie, and wham; the ball is powered over Meslier and into the net. It was one moment where we weren’t quite good enough and Chelsea, like any Premier League side, will do, pounced and punished us. At the other end, Chelsea remained switched on at all times and, truth be told, we didn’t really come close to breaching their defences.
In an opening half-hour bombardment, Chelsea looked like romping away with the game – Meslier saved well at his near post from Havertz, Joao Felix crashed a shot against our crossbar, and Chilwell was found behind our backline with a clever diagonal ball over the top that he volleyed wide – we could, in all fairness, have been three down at that point. That is what makes it all the more galling that we then switched off at that corner early in the second half having ridden our luck so well in the first half; you could tell by the body language of our players that they thought something along the lines of: “I just don’t believe it!”
After conceding the goal, Leeds responded well and our best spell in the game was the final twenty minutes or so. It was a period that saw Junior Firpo again marauding forwards – often in midfield – and substitutes Mat Joseph and Willy Gnonto doing their best to impact the game albeit with Chelsea now having something to hold onto and defend, it was even more difficult.
Leeds huffed and puffed and Georginio had probably our best chance when a Luke Ayling shot came his way in the centre of the box and he reacted quickly to strike at goal only for his effort to hit Koulibaly on the back and thus all the sting was taken out of that one. Mat Joseph, a late substitute had a shot on target but with no real power and Illan Meslier also got a header on target as he went up for a late corner. But that was the extent of any Leeds threat, no threat at all really.
Jack Harrison had another disappointing afternoon and it was surprising he lasted as long as 80 minutes before he got the hook, Sam Greenwood replacing him for those final ten minutes. Elsewhere, Brenden Aaronson was far too quiet again but the rest, particularly the defensive group, did ok.
At the end of the day, we were found wanting in one fateful moment and that cost us a point. All season this has been the problem, we have too often given up a goal that ought to have been prevented while failing to create any stress at the other end for our opponents. It is hard to resist the conclusion that our squad is still just not good enough in certain areas and it’s hard to see how we can change much in the run-in to the end of the season. It looks like it will be a familiar grind in every game and we’ll need to strive even harder to be error free whilst hoping the opposition offers us the odd crumb to snatch some winners here and there. Our survival in the Premier League is on a knife edge and I have no idea which way it will go.
Chelsea Leeds U
Possession 57% 43%
Shots 13 11
On Target 3 2
Corners 5 7
Fouls 11 7