Chelsea vs. Sparta Prague: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction
Chelsea got a last-second goal from Eden Hazard to tie Sparta Prague, 1-1, sending the Blues through to the Europa League Round of 16 on aggregate, 2-1.
After some encouraging early play from Chelsea, Sparta got the scoring started in the 17th minute. Following a set piece situation, Vaclav Kadlec received the ball on the side of the penalty area, where he found an open David Lafata in the middle of the box.
From there, Lafata smashed it into the top of the net from five yards out to tie the aggregate:
It would stay that way for the rest of the first half.
After intermission, both squads showed vast interest in finding the game-winner.
Chelsea controlled the majority of the possession and nearly earned the match's first road goal several times.
In the 47th minute, Oscar finished a dazzling run by playing it to Ramires on the right side of the box, but a slight Sparta deflection sent the Brazilian's shot off the post. A few minutes later, Torres worked his way through the defense, but an attempted chip was thwarted by Tomas Vaclik.
In the 59th minute, John Terry had an improvised effort over his head with the outside of his foot, but great reactions from the goalkeeper once again kept the match tied.
Sparta opened a few of its own encouraging chances on the counter attack, but nothing ever came of it.
Extra time looked inevitable. Until the 92nd minute.
Two minutes into injury time, Hazard streaked down the left side and sent an absolute rocket into the top of the net from the top of the box. It was an unbelievable strike from the young Belgian.
On the following kickoff, the final whistle blew and Chelsea escaped to the next round. It certainly wasn't how the Blues wanted to advance, but it was a win, nonetheless.
David Lafata, Sparta Prague: B+
Lafata wasn't able to make a massive impact on the match once Sparta dropped back into defensive mode, but his equalizer in the 17th minute was as clinical as can be asked for.
Tomas Vaclik, Sparta Prague: A-
Yes, he gave up the final goal that eliminated Sparta, but there wasn't much he could have done about Hazard's shot.
For the other 91 minutes, Vaclik was fantastic.
Chelsea was relentless in its attack, but the 23-year-old Czech stayed true, providing several quick-reaction saves and an all-around solid performance.
Eden Hazard, Chelsea: A
He came on in the 68th minute for Oscar and wasn't able to make a monumental impact, but he made up for lost time with his tremendous goal.
How would you grade Chelsea's team performance overall?
Hazard's strike was not only a world-class game-winner, but it also came on literally the last kick of the match.
Ramires, Chelsea: B+
Ramires was all over the place on Thursday night.
On one hand, the Brazilian lacked a bit of execution in the final third. He had one potential goal deflected into the post, but other than that, he missed on some terrific chances.
On the other, however, he connected on several long-range passes, did a good job connecting on some accurate crosses and really opened up the pitch for the Blues' constant attack.
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