Jorginho’s stoppage-time penalty ensured Chelsea avoided conceding further ground in the Premier League title race with a dramatic victory over Leeds United at Stamford Bridge.
Teenager Joe Gelhardt, brought on as an 81st-minute substitute, appeared to have earned a late point for Leeds with his first touch – the 19-year-old sliding in to send Tyler Roberts’ low cross past Edouard Mendy.
In a hugely entertaining encounter featuring three converted penalties, Raphinha put the visitors ahead with the game’s first spot-kick after 28 minutes following Marcos Alonso’s mistimed challenge on Daniel James.
But Chelsea, knocked off top spot in the table following their 3-2 defeat by West Ham last weekend, fought back as Mason Mount met Alonso’s low cross with a first-time finish to restore parity before the interval.
Thomas Tuchel’s hosts were awarded a penalty of their own before the hour mark after referee Chris Kavanagh reviewed Raphinha’s sliding challenge on Antonio Rudiger, allowing Jorginho to complete the turnaround.
Despite Gelhardt’s heroics, it was Jorginho who had the final say with another confident penalty after Mateusz Klich brought down Rudiger to deliver a victory that ensures third-placed Chelsea remain two points behind leaders Manchester City.
Champions City beat Wolves 1-0 earlier on Saturday, while Liverpool, in second, defeated Aston Villa by the same scoreline.
Defensive problems continue to trouble Chelsea
Such is the unforgiving nature of this season’s title race, defeat by West Ham was enough to cost Chelsea two places as they continue to wrestle with Manchester City and Liverpool in an already enthralling battle at the top.
With seven minutes remaining, it appeared the European champions would lose further ground at the beginning of a relentless Christmas schedule, yet despite letting another lead slip they remain within striking distance with this hard-fought win.
Tuchel admitted that, given the high standards expected at Stamford Bridge, his side’s recent form of one win in four matches in all competitions has looked “kind of horrible” – adding his side had been “trying to escape with 90% effort and intensity” in recent matches.
After a promising start, in which Mason Mount went close and Reece James attempted to catch out goalkeeper Illan Meslier with a disguised free-kick, the Blues were initially unable to make their early superiority count against a depleted Leeds.
Wing-back James displayed his versatility as he was given permission to roam around a midfield missing Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante, while another obvious positive for Tuchel was Mount’s continued run of form in front of goal as the England midfielder scored for a third successive league game.
But it is at the back where Chelsea’s concern remain. They have conceded eight goals across their last three games following Wednesday’s 3-3 Champions League draw with Zenit.
And while Alonso atoned for his penalty error by dispossessing Stuart Dallas to assist Mount, there is much work for Tuchel to do if his side are to sustain their title challenge.