Marcos Alonso snatched a precious 1-0 away win for Chelsea in their Europa League quarter-final first leg at Slavia Prague on Thursday.
For much of this contest, that is all Chelsea managed. They were indebted to two superb saves from Kepa Arrizabalaga, who clawed to his right to deny a drilled effort from Ibrahim-Benjamin Traore before rectifying his own flap at a cross to dramatically parry Jan Boril’s goal-bound effort.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Slavia Prague (4-3-3): Kolar 6; Coufal 5.5, Ngadeu-Ngadjui 6, Deli 6, Boril 6; Traore 7, Kral 6, Sevcik 6; Masopust 5.5 (Husbauer 74, 6), Olayinka 6 (Van Buren), Stoch 6 (Zmrhal 64, 5.5);
Subs not used: Kovar, Kudela, Skoda, Frydrych
Manager: Jindrich Trpisovsky 6
Chelsea (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga 7; Azpilicueta 6, Christensen 6, Rudiger 7, Alonso 7; Barkley 6 (Loftus-Cheek 75), Jorginho 5.5, Kovacic 6 (Kante 68); Pedro 5 (Hazard 59), Giroud 5.5, Willian 7.5
Subs not used: Caballero, Higuain, Zappacosta, Luiz
Manager: Maurizio Sarri 6
Goal: Alonso 86
Referee: Felix Zwayer 6
Then, in the 86th minute, Chelsea struck gold. It was only their second strike on target in the entire game but it was a priceless goal that places Sarri’s side firmly in the driving seat. It was a peach of a goal, too, as Willian curled a sumptuous ball from the right flank and Marcos Alonso stooped to glance in the header.
Whether this constituted the Sarri master plan is another matter entirely, but it was a fine result for Chelsea that keeps their season firmly on track.