Sparta Prague 0 Chelsea 1
In a game that won`t remain in the memory banks for too long, a solitary goal, late-on, from Oscar, on as a substitute, gave Chelsea a valuable first leg lead.
Team News - Rafa Benitez showed just how serious Chelsea were taking this competition by selecting a strong starting line-up. The only changes from what might be considered the strongest starting eleven available were the inclusion of Ryan Bertrand and Marko Marin. Frank Lampard captained the side with John Terry on the bench.
First Half - With the action having got underway in inclement weather, Lampard drew the first save from the Sparta Prague keeper, Tomáš Vaclík, with a shot from the edge of the box.
A fine ball from Marin then saw Eden Hazard drill a cross right across the face of the goal but nobody was on hand to turn it in. Hazard had started the game well with a full array of tricks and flicks on display.
Our hosts, just past the quarter of an hour mark, created their first opportunity when a cross from Ladislav Krejčí' found David Lafata but no shot was forthcoming to test Petr Cech.
After a bright start, meaningful action then became something of a scarcity. But, with something close to ten minutes to go before the break, Sparta should have gone ahead when a loose ball, fell invitingly for David Lafata but the striker shot wide from just six yards out.
Marin, showing glimpses of why he was dubbed the German Messi, combined with Juan Mata and Lampard to create a chance for Fernando Torres but it all to no avail as the striker got his feet in a muddle ad was unable to get his shot off.
Relying on the counter-attack, after soaking up Sparta Prague possession, Lampard chancing his luck from thirty yards out saw his effort comfortably saved by the keeper.
Second Half - The second forty-five minutes started with Lampard finding the shins of a defender with a free kick as both sides looked for that vita opening goal. Cech was then forced into a save denying Matěj Hybš who had unleashed a shot from distance before Torres fumbled another good chance with a too heavy first touch.
Mata, becoming more influential hit the ball over the top of the Sparta defence but as Torres went to hit it the defence smothered him and Marin saw a shot blocked from his lay-off. With Marin enjoying his best display in a Chelsea shirt, Rafa Benitez decided to replace him with Yossi Benayoun.
Was the substitution designed to put some energy into what was, so far, something of a listless display?
Chelsea tried to inject some life into the game but Lampard`s header was snapped up, easily, by the keeper before a shot from Torres went for a throw-in, it was fast becoming that sort of night.
With fifteen minutes to go, it was hard to see where a goal might come from. But an inspired, or should that be a common sense introduction, saw Oscar give us that crucial away goal, although many might have felt that Mata was unlucky to make way for the Brazilian.
Oscar`s goal was beauty personified with the youngster skipping past a tired looking defender before beating the keeper with a cool finish. Oscar had been on the pitch for roughly 20 seconds .With the goal lead Chelsea, quite easily, saw the game out.
Chelsea - Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Bertrand, Ramires, Lampard, Marin (Benayoun-68), Hazard, Mata (Oscar-81), Torres
Unused Subs - Turnbull, Ferreira, Ake, Terry, Cole,
Chelsea Scorers - Oscar (82)
Chelsea Yellow Cards - Cahill,
Chelsea Red Cards - Nil
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