Sarri’s dream of silverware is still alive after Chelsea ease beyond Slavia

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Sarri’s dream of silverware is still alive after Chelsea ease beyond Slavia

Chelsea 4 Slavia Prague 3 – Chelsea win 5-3 on agg


Olivier Giroud celebrates with Pedro after scoring Chelsea’s third goal
Olivier Giroud celebrates with Pedro after scoring Chelsea’s third goal

Maurizio Sarri had never reached a final of any competition until this season. He is still yet to win one, but there may be few opportunities better than the great unloved Europa League to claim his first major trophy in 30 years of management.

Chelsea have cruised through this competition and this was a lot simpler than the scoreline suggests, the deficit being narrowed by two mighty swings of the right foot from Slavia Prague’s Petr Sevcik in the second half.

A Europa League semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt now awaits Chelsea, with the German club having staged a mighty comeback to beat Benfica 2-0 at home and progress on the away goals rule.

In the other half of the draw it gets rather more interesting, with Arsenal progressing into the final four and setting up the possibility of Sarri going head-to-head with another Premier League rookie, Unai Emery, for their first trophies of a new era.



Chelsea's Ross Barkley (left) and Sparta Prague's Ibrahim Traore battle for the ball. Photo: John Walton/PAChelsea's Ross Barkley (left) and Sparta Prague's Ibrahim Traore battle for the ball. Photo: John Walton/PA

Chelsea’s Ross Barkley (left) and Sparta Prague’s Ibrahim Traore battle for the ball. Photo: John Walton/PA

Emery is a Europa League specialist of course, while Sarri’s one experience of a cup final, at Wembley in February, went so badly in the end with all that business over Kepa Arrizabalaga that he might have preferred it never happened.

Frankfurt are fourth in the Bundesliga and one can only assume that they might at least prove worthier opposition to Chelsea than they have encountered thus far in a competition they never really wanted to play in.

They scored four times in the first 21 minutes of this game, and taking a 4-1 lead into half-time allowed a spirited Slavia back in, courtesy of two booming right-foot hits from Sevcik.

Slavia will be Czech champions providing they take a point from their last two games, although they crumbled in the first half. Chelsea have won all but one of the 12 games played so far in this competition, and that draw against the Hungarians Vidi was a dead rubber in the group stage. It is hard to say that they have really been tested yet.

Nevertheless, Sarri has at least taken the challenge seriously and he left Eden Hazard on the pitch until the 64th minute despite the Belgian having taken some kicks along the way.

After this win they have until Monday to recover for Burnley before the critical game for fourth place at Old Trafford a week on Sunday.



Chelsea's Olivier Giroud in action against Slavia Prague's Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui. Photo: Reuters/Jason CairnduffChelsea's Olivier Giroud in action against Slavia Prague's Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud in action against Slavia Prague’s Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

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It was a long way to come for it all to be over for Slavia Prague in the matter of eight minutes. Whatever the team at the top of the Czech First League had come to do, it was not to defend. They were so open that by half-time the tie was well beyond their reach.

Out on the wings it was Hazard and Pedro who did the damage. Hazard was kicked a few times, his left ankle twice being clipped by challenges best described as clumsy. Pedro chipped goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar for the first having exchanged passes with first Cesar Azpilicueta and Ross Barkley.

Pedro should have scored the second when Hazard’s cross from the left reached him unmarked at the back post, but the Spanish winger got his bearings wrong and hit the post. The rebound struck Simon Deli before he could react and in it went.

The third fell to Olivier Giroud from a Pedro cutback. Giroud is the competition’s top goalscorer with 10 goals in this, his 11th Europa League appearance. The Frenchman has already said that he will most likely seek to move away this summer after a season in which he has played a very limited role under Sarri. He is perfect for nights like these when the second string can rough up an inferior opponent and, as Tottenham Hotspur have found, good understudies in attack are hard to find.

There was delight for Slavia Prague when they scored on 25 minutes, a big header from Tomas Soucek direct from a corner. It was hard to see who, if anyone, was supposed to be marking him. The fourth goal of the game for Chelsea arrived soon after, a second from Pedro when Giroud’s shot from Emerson Palmieri’s effort was saved.



Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri during the match. Photo: Reuters/Jason CairnduffChelsea manager Maurizio Sarri during the match. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri during the match. Photo: Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

The tenacity of Slavia earned them two fine goals struck by Sevcik from roughly the same position on the right wing within three minutes of one another. The first beat Arrizabalaga at his near post, and the second flew past the Chelsea goalkeeper’s right hand. It certainly made for a better second half.

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