Chelsea secured passage into the Europa League semi-final with a 4-3 second-leg victory over Slavia Prague after their 1-0 win in the Czech Republic in the first leg.
A devastatingly clinical opening half an hour made sure of progression for the Blues despite their opponents staging a comeback in the second half. A Pedro brace, an own goal from Simon Deli and Olivier Giroud’s 10th goal in Europe this term were too much for the visitors who got back into the game thanks to Tomáš Souček and Petr Ševčík, who netted twice after half time.
Maurizio Sarri opted for a strong starting XI to make sure the job was done properly and professionally but Ruben Loftus-Cheek found himself out of the squad completely, presumably being rested for some big upcoming Premier League fixtures.
But his absence in midfield was soon forgotten as Chelsea raced in front after just five minutes. Some intricate one-touch football allowed Pedro through on goal and he made no mistake by dinking the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to give his side the perfect start.
After scoring the first, the pint-sized Spaniard was involved in another goal just moments later but it is probably one he won’t want to see again as he missed an open goal from a couple of yards out. Although, his missed shot bounced back off the post and ended up in the back of the net after it hit Deli in the face, one of the stranger goals seen at Stamford Bridge this term!
The explosive start was far from finished there and with 17 minutes on the clock, the Blues all-but put the tie to bed as Olivier Giroud was on hand to tap home an unselfish square ball across the box from Pedro.
Slavia, who could not have started much worse, ensured their presence was known and made the tie temporarily interesting as Souček angled a brilliant header into the net from the penalty area after a great delivery from a corner.
But almost from kick-off, they were picking the ball out of their net once again and it was that man Pedro who added to his earlier goal with another simple finish. This time it was a rebound from Giroud’s saved shot, providing the hosts with an almost unassailable lead.
That mad opening to the game slowed right down after half an hour and Chelsea were in complete control heading into half time expecting no real challenge from their considerably worse opponents. However, they were very wrong as the Czech side came flying out after the interval.
They were straight in the faces of the home players and they reaped their rewards instantly as Ševčík arrowed a fantastic strike past Kepa and into the back of the net from 20 yards to cut their aggregate deficit to three goals.
As if that effort wasn’t good enough, the same man got one that was even better a few minutes later to really silence the jubilant Chelsea fans. Ševčík evaded the challenge of Mateo Kovacic just outside the penalty area before blasting the ball right into the corner of the net, sending the visiting supporters even wilder than they had already been.
The 24-year-old then had a great chance to complete his hat-trick but he fell over in the process of trying to convert a perfect pull back, providing a huge let off to Sarri’s defence. Fortunately for the English side, despite Slavia dominating large parts of the last half an hour, they managed to see out the game for a 4-3 victory.
While it may have been suspect in the second period, Chelsea will still be playing in a European semi-final, not only giving them a huge chance to win some silverware but also an increased chance of qualification for next season’s Champions League.