A last-moment score by Eden Hazard moved Chelsea through to the Round of 16 in Europa League with a 2-1 aggregate victory over Sparta Prague at Stamford Bridge on Thursday in the second leg, 1-1.
Hazard, who was the only substitute for the Blues, drilled a left-foot shot from distance just before the final whistle to send Chelsea through, and avoid 30 minutes of added time and possibly penalty kicks.
Sparta Prague got on the board in the 17th minute with a goal from David Lafata, who one-touched a pass inside the box to beat Petr Cech. Vaclav Kadlec did a fine job of setting up Lafata, and the 31-year-old delivered to level Sparta on aggregate.
It was an organized defensive effort by Sparta Prague that left Chelsea frustrated for much of the second half. Sparta appeared to be more precise with their passes, and gave the Blues a tougher time than many expected in London.
Chelsea had their chances, though. Ramires hit the post in the 47th minute with a deflected shot from the right side of the box. Goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik denied John Terry from perhaps the best goal of his career with a athletic save in the 59th minute. It was a particularly difficult night for Fernando Torres, whose failed chances included a dinked effort that was saved by Vaclik.
Sparta controlled possession for 53 percent of the match. Chelsea took 18 shots, with seven on target, while Sparta took 10 shots with four on goal.
Chelsea face Manchester City on Sunday at Etihad Stadium in Premier League action.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.