Prague: This ended up a timely reminder of the resilience, and ruthlessness, Chelsea can still command on this stage. A tie that might have veered away from them, particularly while they laboured to contain Slavia Prague’s urgent intent, was claimed late on by a marauding full-back, breaking late into the box to meet an inviting centre. That, at the very least, was an indication of this team’s underlying ambition.
Marcos Alonso has not been himself since the onset of winter so it was reassuring to see him galloping untracked between defenders again, even in the dregs of the game, to meet Willian’s cross before planting an emphatic winning goal beyond Ondrej Kolar.
Chelsea will boast another dimension to their attacking play if they can coax a consistent threat from their left-back, so integral had he been to their encouraging progress under Maurizio Sarri’s stewardship at the start of the campaign.
The finish served to inflict Slavia’s first home defeat since August and probably one their tenacious display had not warranted given the extent to which they had unnerved the visitors. Yet, in adversity, Sarri spied promise for the decisive run-in ahead. “In the past, when we have been in trouble, we’d concede immediately a goal,” he said. “Now we are able to stay in trouble, to fight, to suffer without conceding anything. And so that’s a step forward for us.
“This was a very difficult game, so I’m really happy with the result and also with the performance because, in this moment, we are able to suffer.” They may need to weather a wilder storm at Anfield on Sunday.