Alonso strikes late as Chelsea win in Prague
Europa League quarter final first leg, Eden Arena - Slavia Prague 0 Chelsea 1 (Alonso 86)
Marcos Alonso grabbed a late winner as Chelsea edged to a 1-0 victory at Slavia Prague in the first leg of their Europa League quarter final.
The Spaniard nodded in Willian's pinpoint cross four minutes from time to give Maurizio Sarri's men a narrow success following a dour encounter.
The Blues made seven changes to the side that beat West Ham on Monday night, and they laboured for long spells against a hard working opposition.
Willian hit the woodwork with a curving first-half effort, but it took until after the hour mark for Chelsea to manage an attempt on target courtesy of Antonio Rudiger's low volley.
Sarri was forced to bring on Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in an attempt to inject some urgency into his side, but it didn't look like paying off until Alonso arrived late in the box to break Slavia hearts.
Chelsea will now turn their attention back to their battle for a top four spot when they visit Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday, before hoping to complete the job in the second leg of this last eight clash next Thursday night.
Job done but it was a far from perfect night both on and off the pitch for Chelsea. Sarri has lamented the lack of recovery time as he looks to balance Europe with Chelsea's bid for a top four finish. However, there's no doubt his side have been helped by a kind draw in the last eight of this competition. His team struggled to find their feet for long spells in this first leg, but the Czech outfit lacked the quality to punish them. It proved to be a satisfactory night on the pitch in terms of the result, but events off it will leave a sour note after some Chelsea fans were filmed singing a racist chant.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Willian (Chelsea). The Brazilian was a rare positive in the Blues' attack, seeing a brilliant effort hit the bar and producing a moment of real quality with the cross for Alonso's winner.
SLAVIA PRAGUE: Kolar 6, Coufal 6, Ngadeu-Ngadjui 7, Deli 7, Boril 7, Traore 7, Kral 7, Masopust 7, Sevcik 7, Stoch 6, Olayinka 6. Subs: Zmrhal 6, Husbauer 6, Van Buren n/a.
3' - SLAVIA PRAGUE CHANCE! Chelsea are fortunate to enjoy an early let off as a brilliant left-wing free kick is nodded wide on the stretch by Slavia captain Simon Deli.
25' - CHELSEA CHANCE! Willian drops a shoulder and jinks in from the left before curving a brilliant right-foot effort that pings back off the crossbar.
61' - CHELSEA CHANCE! Rudiger sees his low volley on the turn well saved by Kolar before Willian burst free on the left of the box and flashes just wide from a narrow angle.
69' - SLAVIA PRAGUE CHANCE! Traore leads a Slavia charge on the counter and forces Kepa into a fine stop as the keeper beats away his thunderous drive.
81' - SLAVIA PRAGUE CHANCE! Kepa springs to his right to beat away Boril's acrobatic effort from the left of the area after the Chelsea keeper had once again flapped at a cross.
86' - GOAL! Slavia Prague 0-1 Chelsea. Alonso arrives late in the box to nod Willian's curving cross from the right into the corner.
Slavia have won just one of their last 10 games against English sides in Europe (D2 L7).