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Chelsea made to sweat but Euro prize step closer

Chelsea 4 Slavia Prague 3 (Chelsea win 5-3 on aggregate)

Opener: Pedro sets Chelsea on their way last night
Opener: Pedro sets Chelsea on their way last night

By Nick Purewal

Pedro's smart double helped Chelsea ride out a worrying wobble to see off Slavia Prague 4-3 and reach the Europa League semi-finals.

The Blues won their quarter-final 5-3 on aggregate, but at a push rather than a canter, squandering a 3-0 lead in the second leg at Stamford Bridge.

Pedro opened the scoring after only five minutes and, after Simon Deli's own goal, the Spaniard teed up Europa League top-scorer Olivier Giroud for his 10th of the competition.

Tomas Soucek headed home unmarked for Slavia before the break, only for Pedro to score the fifth goal of the match before the half-hour mark.

After the interval Petr Sevcik blasted home two long-range strikes in three minutes to give Slavia hope of an unlikely comeback, but there was to be no Chelsea collapse.

Giroud said: "We started the game well, with good intentions, we've been quite efficient up front and in the box and solid at the back.

"At 4-1 at half time obviously maybe in an unconscious way we dropped the intensity down a little bit and even some technical mistakes but this team never give up, I said it before the game.

"It was a good fight to play against them and now the semi-final (against Eintracht Frankfurt)."

Boss Maurizio Sarri admitted his side's intensity dropped in the second half.

He said: "We played very well in the first half, probably we thought that we were qualified and so the application lowered and we started very badly in the second half but we need to consider the match with the target of the qualification.

"We are very happy because we played very well for 45 minutes and we are in the European semi-final which is very important for us."

The head coach can be forgiven for expecting a cakewalk conclusion, especially after Chelsea raced into that 3-0 lead inside 20 minutes.

Pedro exchanged passes with first Cesar Azpilicueta and then Giroud, before lashing home a stylish opener.

The Spaniard nearly scored again three minutes later, turning Hazard's low cross against a post, only for the rebound to strike defender Deli on the head and bounce over the line.

If that own goal proved cruel, N'Golo Kante's through-ball for Chelsea's third was exquisite. Pedro raced on to the defence-splitting pass, squared to Giroud and the France striker tapped home.

Slavia skipper Soucek then nodded home from a corner.

Chelsea hit back immediately, though, Pedro scuffing home.

Then Sevcik twice netted from distance to shock the Blues.

But Chelsea survived a genuine fright when they should have breezed through.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Luiz, Emerson Palmieri, Kante, Kovacic, Barkley (Jorginho, 70 mins), Pedro (Hudson-Odoi, 87 mins), Giroud, Hazard (Willian, 65 mins). Unused subs: Caballero, Higuain, Zappacosta, Cahill.

Slavia Prague: Kolar, Kudela, Ngadeu Ngadjui, Deli, Boril, Kral, Soucek, Sevcik (Stoch, 78 mins), Traore, Zmrhal (Skoda, 85 mins), Masopust (Olayinka, 52 mins). Unused subs: Kovar, Zeleny, van Buren, Frydrych.

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

Man of the match: Olivier Giroud

Match rating: 8/10

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