12th April, 2019
Chelsea got a very important hard-fought 1-0 away win courtesy a Marcos Alonso goal in their Europa League quarter-final first leg at Slavia Prague on Thursday. It was surely a goal that brought real relief to the Blues in their bid to ensure progression to the next stage of the competition.
To the surprise of most of the travelling fans, the Blues started with N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard on the bench and were outplayed for a very long period until Alonso headed in an unlikely winner four minutes from time.
But for Kepa Arrizabalaga starring in the away goal, Chelsea would not have come away from this tie with even a draw as Slavia Prague put up a real solid display but could not convert the chances that came their way.
However, Maurizio Sarri’s decision to rest key men can be justified by the fact that the Blues are preparing for their visit to Liverpool on Sunday.
In this game, Slavia Prague seriously put Sarri’s men under pressure in most of the match even though Willian almost stole the opener against the run of play, crashing a superb 20-yard strike off the crossbar, but the hosts were well on top once more by the interval.
The visitor’s had no option but to call on Hazard from the bench after almost an hour of Chelsea toil and they immediately clicked into gear, with Ondrej Kolar blocking well from Antonio Rudiger before Willian drilled just wide.
Chelsea left spaces at the back to exploit, though, and only a smart Kepa parry denied Ibrahim Traore a breakaway winner, while the goalkeeper later kept out an acrobatic Jan Boril effort.
It was those saves that gave Chelsea the fcourage to chase a vital goal that arrived as Willian’s deep cross picked out Alonso for a powerful downward header that gave the visitor’s an unexpected win.
As a matter of fact, Chelsea might have taken a draw before Thursday’s match – they surely would have done after 85 gruelling minutes. But Alonso’s goal changes everything. Each of the Blues’ attacks were against the run of play, but they had more cutting edge than Slavia and look set to progress for that reason.