Maurizio Sarri has spoken of his relief after Chelsea beat Slavia Prague in a breathtaking seven-goal thriller.
Sarri had clearly taken Slavia seriously, giving Eden Hazard a rare start in this competition to ensure there were to be no upset on the night.
The Blues were already in a good position after Marcos Alonso’s late goal in Prague gave them a 1-0 advantage, and any chance of a shock looked to have been extinguished as they went three goals ahead within the first 20 minutes.
Olivier Giroud, who has struggled for minutes in the Premier League, has been in prolific form when called upon in the Europa League. He’s the top scorer in the competition with 10 goals, and he scored once and set up two more in this quarter-final second leg.
The game came alive early in the second half when Slavia’s Petr Sevcik scored two goals in five minutes to make it 4-3 on the night, 5-3 on aggregate.
It had looked like something miraculous could be on the cards, but the hosts eventually took control and saw the rest of the game through.
“We played very well in the first half to go 4-1 up. We probably lacked the application and we started very badly in the second half,” said Sarri, speaking to BT Sport after the match.
“We need to look at the result in that gets our qualification. I’m very happy because of our performance in the first 45 minutes and we’re in semi-finals, which is very important for us I think.
“We did some things wrong in the match but the physicality of the opponent was clear. They had a lot of high speed and the second half for us was difficult. They are a top side in the Europa League.”