Why Oscar Was Chelsea's Best Player Against Sparta Prague
He may have only come on in the 82nd minute, but my vote goes to Oscar for Chelsea's best player in their Europa League victory over Sparta Prague. Whether or not that's a praise of the 21-year-old and possibly Benitez for making the substitution, it still highlights how inconsistent the Blues have been of late.
For the whole 81 minutes before the Brazilian's introduction, the game looked to be heading toward a drab stalemate. Petr Cech was looking uncharacteristically nervous playing against the club he started out with, while the usually magical Juan Mata was certainly having an off day.
But Oscar's determination to be a success during his stint at the West London club certainly was evident in this tie, as he scored just a minute after coming on. Many players would use the eight minutes they're given on the pitch to simply walk around.
Not Oscar. He loves his football, and his goal was simply wonderful.
Eden Hazard was perhaps the brightest player for the European Champions before Oscar's arrival on the pitch; the Belgian winger worked hard throughout and displayed the kind of form that would be expected of a £32 million player.
His assist for Oscar was nothing short of sublime. After receiving the ball in from Oscar, his delicate backheel with a Sparta Prague defender chopping at his ankles was excellent, and Oscar did the rest from there.
Fernando Torres perhaps had the best chance of the game, but struck straight into the hands of Prague 'keeper Tomas Vaclik.
He took a touch past the Ondrej Svejdik and with his burst of pace, slid a low effort into the bottom corner to give Chelsea the advantage heading towards Stamford Bridge next week.
The situation at Chelsea is so that usually the manager would take credit for unleashing a player, only to see him score a minute later. The Chelsea fans, however, praised the player, not the manager. They would argue Oscar should've started this tie, with Marko Marin playing at Stamford Bridge.
It seems that Benitez is fighting a losing battle with the fans, even when he wins, and will also be concerned at the lack of creativity and fight in the Chelsea team.
It could've been a different story altogether for the Blues, though, had David Lafata, who has scored 13 goals so far in the Czech league, put away his chance early in the first half.
The Czech had beaten French side Lyon in the group stage, so they threatened to pose a threat. But it was a day to forget for them in front of goal, lacking the killer instinct in the final third, and they'll be wondering what might've been.
To think this tie is over, though, is...well, unthinkable.
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