Sparta Prague vs. Chelsea: Live Score, Highlights, Recap
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Sparta Prague 0-1 Chelsea
Sparta Prague XI
Tomas Vaclik; Zapotocny, Svejdik, Holek, Hybs; Husbauer, Vacha, Matejovsky; Kadlec, Lafata, Krejci
Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Ryan Bertrand; Ramires, Lampard; Marin, Mata, Hazard; Torres
Brazilian playmaker Oscar gave Chelsea fans an unexpected Valentine’s Day gift on Thursday.
Just seconds after replacing Juan Mata in the 81st minute of the Blues’ Europa League match at Sparta Prague the 21-year-old accepted Eden Hazard’s short pass, waltzed past Ondrej Svejdik and finished expertly past goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik for what proved to be the only goal of the game.
In truth it was a contest that didn’t merit a strike of such quality. Chelsea struggled for openings much of the night, and Fernando Torres, when he had the ball at his feet, seemed a second or two off the pace.
Sparta, meanwhile, controlled large swaths of possession but created very little in the second half, David Lafata and Ladislav Krejci coming closest for the hosts.
And so it fell to Hazard, in his first involvement at the Generali, to spark the match into life, and the excellence of his goal was such that it made the rest of a dull affair worth watching.
That's it for me. I'll have some post-match content up on the site in short order. Thanks for following along. Thankfully Oscar provided a bit of magic to what was otherwise a rather dull affair.
Oscar gets my nod for Man of the Match. He wasn't on the pitch all that long, but he made all the difference when he came on. Here's a look at his goal.
FULL TIME: Sparta Prague 0-1 Chelsea. Substitute Oscar with the winner.
Just not happening in the attacking third for Sparta Prague, today. It'll be a big ask of them to go to London a goal behind on aggregate.
90' We'll have three minutes of added time at the Generali.
Oscar scored five times in the Champions League for Chelsea and now has one in the Europa League as well.
85' SUBSTITUTION: Husbauer replaced by Bednar for Sparta.
83' GOAL CHELSEA! And just like that Oscar opens the scoring! He had only been on the park a few second before finding himself in good space and finishing calmly past Vaclik. Crucial away goal for the Blues.
82' SUBSTITUTIONS: Pamic has replaced Krejci for Sparta, and Oscar has come on for Chelsea.
76' SUBSTITUTION: Sparta replace Lafata with Leonard Kweuke. He's 25 and has played four times for Cameroon.
71' My goodness, Torres. Scuffs one to the right touchline. Just can't be fussed. And with every miss like that he enjoys his football even less.
70' A rare chance for Chelsea, and it comes from Frank Lampard, who got a head to Juan Mata's cross from the left.
68' SUBSTITUTION: Benayoun replaces Marin for Chelsea. Bit of a strange one, that. Marin was arguably the Blues' best player.
67' YELLOW CARD for Sparta's Husbauer, who joins Cahill in the referee's book.
65' Kadlec fires one into a wall of blue shirts, and moments later Marin goes on a run but loses the ball. A microcosm of this match, those two moments.
Marin for Chelsea and Hybs for Sparta have caught my notice. Both have stood out in the first hour.— Jeremiah Gibbons (@ja_gibbons) February 14, 2013
I'd add Krejci to that group.
55' Sparta Prague still with lots of the ball, but they're struggling to make a breakthrough and have been wasteful when chances have presented themselves. They need a win here ahead of the return leg at Stamford Bridge.
Fernando Torres has scored 23 Premier League goals the last three seasons combined. He bagged 24 in his first season at Liverpool in 2007-08. But with Demba Ba cup-tied and Victor Moses resting up following the Africa Cup of Nations Chelsea are without many attacking options.
46' Back underway. Even a score draw here would be a decent result for Chelsea, but they'll have to significantly up their game to get even that.
Quick look at some of the other action around the continent.
Zenit St. Petersburg have defeated Liverpool 2-0: Hulk and Semak with the goals, and Anzhi Makhachkala have beaten Hannover 3-1. Samuel Eto'o scored and also missed a penalty in that one.
The other halftime scores are Ajax 1-0 Steaua Bucharest, BATE Borisov 0-0 Fenerbahce, Bayer Leverkusen 0-0 Benfica, Dynamo Kiev 1-1 Bordeaux, Levante 2-0 Olympiakos and Napoli 0-1 Viktoria Plzen.
Rarely typed sentences: Marko Marin has, by some distance, been Chelsea's best player. That's not saying a vast amount, mind.— Rory Smith (@RorySmithTimes) February 14, 2013
Lampard was alright, but few other Blues have impressed so far.
HALFTIME: Chelsea started well but created very little. Torres had two chances but could turn neither into a meaningful attempt on target. Sparta Prague grew into the match as it wore on and were well on top by the halftime whistle. Lafata, in particular, will be ruing missed chances, and Ladislav Krejci was a constant menace over the first 45 minutes. No score.
44' Cech with a rare wobble as he fumbles his attempted take on Krejci, whom he raced to a loose ball on the edge of the area.
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