Oscar scored just seconds after coming off the bench to give Chelsea a potentially vital away goal and a 1-0 lead over Sparta Prague to take back to Stamford Bridge in their Europa League last-32 tie.
The quality of the Brazilian’s 82nd minute strike was in contrast to an otherwise uninspiring encounter in the Czech capital. The performance will have been of little comfort to beleaguered interim Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez, but the result puts them in a strong position to progress.
With Demba Ba cup-tied after his appearances earlier in the competition for Newcastle, Benitez had little choice but to rely on the struggling Fernando Torres up front. Once again, the Spaniard struggled to impress.
Sparta Prague were playing their first competitive match since closing out the group phase back in early December. After finishing ahead of Atheltic Bilbao, Sparta had chances to maintain their impressive European form, but on two occasions striker David Lafata’s finishing deserted him.
With eight minutes remaining Sparta relinquished their 11-match unbeaten home record in Europe as the match was enlivened when Oscar produced a moment of class less than a minute after replacing Juan Mata.
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The attacking midfielder exchanged passes with Eden Hazard on the edge of the box before stylishly sweeping the ball past a defender and then finishing coolly with his left instep low past Sparta goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.