Javi Gracia looking for solutions to Leeds United's goal scoring woes after familiar defeat to Chelsea
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A Whites team without Patrick Bamford as well as the already injured Rodrigo badly missed a proven Premier League central striker and rarely threatened to beat opponents who have as poor a record as Leeds since the World Cup.
Although they got into some good positions chances were at a premium and although Chelsea did not carve out many openings either they were able to win with a solitary goal by Wesley Fofana from a corner early in the second half.
The result and golden opportunity wasted to complete a rare double over Chelsea left United deep in the relegation mire, but Gracia is not without hope that the Whites can escape the drop.
He said: “I'm frustrated, I'm disappointed with the result but on the other hand after watching the attitude my players had today I can only say I'm proud of them.
"Of course we need to improve many things but if we analyse the game, in the first 30 minutes the opponent was better, they dominated the game, the possession, they created two clear chances, the crossbar and the save from Illan but after that moment I think we grew with the ball, with possession, creating as well some chances.
“The second half was something similar, they have their moments, a goal came from a corner kick and we tried to the end, the team showed character, attitude and that's it. It was the difference today, the corner kick."
The decision to let Joe Gelhardt go out on loan in January has come in for criticism with Leeds only having Georginio Rutter to call on to play up front – and it does not look his position at this stage of his career as his strength is running with the ball not holding it up.
Brenden Aaronson was given the role of supporting Rutter, but is hardly full of goals either as finishing is not his strength so it was not really any surprise that this was the fifth game in the last seven in the league that Leeds had not scored.
Gracia is hoping to have Rodrigo and Bamford back before the international break, but reckons goals are not just about the centre-forwards.
He added: “We need goals like all teams, if you don't score you don't win. The goals are not only about the strikers, all the team has to be ready to collaborate.
“I can tell you it's very difficult (without a centre-forward) or whatever you want, but I have to look for the solutions. After two Premier League games, we scored one goal and conceded one goal. We need to work on it and if we are not able to score too many goals then we need to be more compact and solid to concede less goals.”
Under pressure Chelsea made the better start as they looked determined to end their poor run. Leeds defended well, however, with Fofana's off target header the only effort of note early on.
The hosts did create a good chance as Raheem Sterling played Kai Havertz through only for the German to be denied by keeper Illan Meslier.
Meslier was beaten, but Joao Felix's shot hit the crossbar from the edge of the box after he was set up by Sterling's cut back.
Chilwell then sent a volley wide after being found unmarked in the area before United finally managed to fashion a chance of their own, Aaronson seeing his effort blocked.
Jack Harrison hit a free-kick over and the Whites finished the half much stronger, but with nothing to show for their efforts.
Chelsea were back on top at the start of the second half with Enzo Fernandez curling a free-kick over and Sterling off target with an effort from six yards out.
They went in front when Chilwell's corner was headed home by Fofana who outjumped Max Wober to get in a powerful effort.
Leeds came close to a quick reply from their own corner, but Tyler Adams – yet to score for the club – sent a curling shot narrowly over.
Another player without a goal so far, Rutter, saw his effort blocked by Kalidou Koulibaly, before his day was ended early and teenage forward Mateo Joseph was turned to.
Joseph had a chance not long after coming on after a Luke Ayling cross was no dealt with, but his shot lacked power and was straight at home keeper Kepa.
The Whites showed spirit as they kept going with Ayling heading wide from a Junior Firpo cross.
One final chance came in added time and there was almost the most unlikely of goalscorers as keeper Meslier went up for a corner and got his head on the ball only to see his effort saved by his opposite number.
The fact that was only United's second effort on target in the game and it came from their goalkeeper said it all about the finishing again.
Leeds United 0
Saturday, March 4, 2023
Chelsea: Kepa; Badiashile, Fofana, Koulibaly; Loftus-Cheek (Chalobah 84), Enzo (Madueke 84), Kovacic (Chukwuemeka 75), Chilwell; Felix (Gallagher 68), Sterling (Zakaria 68), Havertz.
Leeds: Meslier; Ayling, Koch, Wober, Firpo; Adams, McKennie; Summerville, Aaronson (Joseph 68), Harrison (Greenwood 80); Rutter (Gnonto 68).
Referee: Michael Oliver