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.