UEFA Europa League Round of 32: Chelsea 1-1 Sparta Prague (Chelsea progress on 2-1 aggregate)
Chelsea XI (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Bertrand; Ramires, Mikel; Moses, Mata, Oscar; Torres
Sparta Prague XI (4-1-4-1): Vaclik; Zapotocny, Holek, Svejdik, Hybs; Vacha; Prikryl, Matejovsky, Kadlec, Krejci; Lafata
A venomous strike from Eden Hazard in the first minute of second-half stoppage time ensured Chelsea’s progression to the next round of the Europa League at the expense of Sparta Prague.
Hazard, who had replaced Oscar in the 66th minute, gave the hosts an element of creativity they had lacked until that point, but although Chelsea came close to beating Sparta goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik on several occasions in the final 20 minutes they continued to look vulnerable at the back and were only let off the hook by misses from Vaclav Kadlec and Marek Matejovsky.
Kadlec, for his part, set up the opening goal of the match in the 17th minute when he held up the ball inside Chelsea’s 18-yard box before laying it off for January acquisition David Lafata, who finished emphatically past Blues ‘keeper Petr Cech.
For the longest time it looked as though that goal was going to be enough to get the Czech Republic side into extra time at Stamford Bridge (Oscar’s winner in Prague had given Chelsea a 1-0 advantage following the first leg), but once again this tie was in store for the sort of goal it really didn’t deserve, and once again it was a substitute who did the business for the European champions.