Chelsea survive, hold off Slavia Prague to advance to Europa League semis
Chelsea advanced to the UEFA Europa League semifinals on Thursday evening, but not without a few heart-stopping moments at both ends of the field.
Chelsea defeated Slavia Prague, 4-3, (5-3 on aggregate) in a seven-goal thriller that looked at one point to be headed for double digits in combined goals. Pedro scored a pair of goals, the first on a wonderful team effort, while Olivier Giroud and an own goal also helped Chelsea’s cause.
[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box scores ]
While Chelsea ran out to an impressive 4-1 lead on the night at the halftime break, Slavia Prague was kept in the game thanks to the right leg of Petr Ševčík, who scored twice early in the second half to make it a game again, and put Slavia just two goals away from an improbable result at Stamford Bridge.
After Tottenham’s wild finish past Manchester City, anything seems to be possible these days. However, Chelsea held down the fort late and survived to advance to the next round.
In the match, Chelsea displayed some of the beautiful soccer that had made Maurizio Sarri such a prized figure in coaching circles. Chelsea’s first goal featured a litany of one-touch passes and great off the ball movement, ending with a Pedro goal.
Chelsea went up 2-0 thanks to an own goal we’ve rarely seen before, as Pedro fired a shot that cannon’d off the post, popped up in the air and directed off Slavia Prague defender Simon Dell and into his own net. Then Giroud scored before Pedro finished at the first post again on what should have been his hat-trick to put Chelsea up 4-1.
However, Ševčík wasn’t finished yet, and the Czech midfielder popped a pair of great goals to make for some nervy moments late at Stamford Bridge. Ultimately, though, Chelsea was able to move on and advance to the semifinals. Chelsea will next face Eintracht Frankfort, which completed a terrific home comeback with a 2-0 win to go through past Benfica on away goals, tied 4-4 on aggregate.