Chelsea have earned a place in the Europa League semifinals courtesy of a dramatic 4-3 victory over Slavia Prague on Thursday night.
The Blues held a 4-1 lead after just 27 minutes before being pegged back by Slavia in the second half, but Maurizio Sarri’s side survived the closing half-hour of the contest to prevail 5-3 on aggregate.
Chelsea went into the game knowing that avoiding defeat would secure their passage through to the next stage, but Sarri’s side quickly went about getting the goals which would put the tie beyond their opponents.
The Blues took the lead courtesy of a sublime team move which ended when Olivier Giroud threaded a pass into the path of Pedro, who proceeded to loft the ball over Ondrej Kolar and into the net.
A second soon arrived in calamitous circumstances.
Pedro could only strike the post from two yards out after meeting Eden Hazard’s cross, but the ball ricocheted off the woodwork and was inadvertently diverted into the roof of the net off the face of Deli.
Slavia had been left stunned, and the Czech outfit went further behind after 17 minutes. Pedro was released clear on goal by a pass from N’Golo Kante, and the Spaniard unselfishly laid the ball into the path of Giroud to convert into an empty net from 15 yards out.
Chelsea had effectively wrapped up the tie, but Slavia showed signs of life going forward with Deli seeing a header from a free kick superbly kept out by Kepa Arrizabalaga.
However, the goalkeeper was powerless to keep hold of his clean sheet as Soucek was left all on his own at the back post to power a header into the net from a corner.
The visiting supporters finally had something to cheer in West London, but Chelsea soon reopened their three-goal advantage courtesy of Pedro scuffing a shot into the net after Kolar had denied Giroud.
The back-and-forth nature of the game subsided ahead of half time, but Slavia returned for the second half prepared to risk a heavier defeat while searching for the goals that they required to remain competitive.
Jindrich Trpisovsky’s approach paid off within six minutes of the restart, with Sevcik taking advantage of being provided with space on the edge of the area to lash a low effort into the bottom corner.
Chelsea still had little reason for alarm with Slavia still requiring three goals, but the mood around Stamford Bridge changed for the worse as the visitors further reduced their deficit.
Sevcik was again provided with room to tee up a shot from 25 yards, and the winger proceeded to send a swerving effort into the far top corner of Arrizabalaga’s net.
The Premier League giants had been left shellshocked with Sarri becoming increasingly agitated on the bench, but that did not stop the Italian from making the decision to withdraw Eden Hazard.
Slavia continued to plough forward with the desire to pull off a miracle-like comeback, and there were signs that Chelsea were beginning to become wary of giving up such a commanding position.