Chelsea will go into next Thursday’s Europa League Round of 32 second leg tie at Stamford Bridge as favourites, after beating Sparta Prague 1-0 in the first leg at at Letna Stadium.
Oscar scored the only goal of the night, just 45 seconds after coming on as a 81st minute substitute, to notch up his sixth goal in European competition this season.
The European champions were the brighter team in the opening moments, with Marko Marin impressing on a rare start and Juan Mata and Eden Hazard constantly looking for gaps in the Sparta defence.
However, it was the home side that should have opened the scoring just after the half-hour mark. Vaclav Kadlec's shot deflected off Mata and and straight to David Lafata, but the Sparta striker, top scorer in the Czech league for the last two seasons, skewed his shot wide of the far post.
Frank Lampard tested goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik with a couple of long distance efforts, and Fernando Torres twice miskicked when well-placed, but the teams went into the break goalless.
In a bitty and disjointed second half, the game seemed to be meandering to a goalless draw until Oscar’s fine finish. On for Mata with nine minutes to go, the young Brazilian played a neat one-two with Eden Hazard before slotting a low left-foot effort past Vaclik at his near post.
A minute later, Torres almost added a second for Chelsea after a charging run and shot, but Vaclik was able to throw out a hand to save brilliantly at his near post.