Substitute Oscar scored the only goal in an uninspiring match as Chelsea started their Europa League campaign with victory against Sparta Prague.
Oscar, combining nicely with Eden Hazard, found the bottom corner within 45 seconds of coming off the bench.
The visitors created little but, with the second leg at Stamford Bridge, are in prime position to progress.
The best chances fell to Sparta's David Lafata in the first half, but the striker shot high on both occasions.
A workmanlike performance in the Czech capital ensures the Blues remain on track to become the fifth club (following Bayern Munich, Ajax, Juventus and Barcelona) to complete the sweep of Europe's main trophies.
Chelsea had already created history by becoming the first defending champions to tumble out of the group stages of the Champions League, but goalkeeper Petr Cech called on his team-mates to again ensure the club made an imprint in the annals of European football.
The visitors did not give the impression of a team which had been galvanized by their goalkeeper's talk of history making though.
- Chelsea have now scored in all but one of their last 21 European games. (via Opta)
- Oscar's winning goal was the Brazilian's sixth goal in seven games in European competition this season. (via Opta)
Hazard and Marko Marin posed problems down either flank in a low-key opening, but Chelsea lacked bite in the final third and the longer the first half progressed the more content the Londoners were to concede possession to the home team.
It was a dangerous ploy and one which would perhaps have caused the fit again John Terry to shuffle uneasily alongside fellow substitute Ashley Cole on the bench.
Sparta, playing their first competitive match since December because of their winter break, blew off the cobwebs when Ladislav Krejci's cross found Lafata. The stretching striker should have put his team ahead but instead sent his effort off target.
The January signing had a chance to make amends when a ricochet inside the box confused the visitors and bobbled his way - but the Czech's radar once again faltered as he dragged his effort wide from six yards.
Two long-distance strikes from captain Frank Lampard and a toe-poke from the ineffective Fernando Torres posed the biggest tests to Tomas Vaclik in the first half, and the goalkeeper had even fewer causes for concern after the break.
A lacklustre Chelsea, top scorers in the group stages of the Champions League, were sloppy in possession, with routine passes regularly finding a maroon-shirted player, and created little.
Other than a half chance for Torres, the only striker available to manager Rafael Benitez because Demba Ba was ineligible, and a tame Lampard header, Chelsea had little to show for nearly 80 minutes of toil.
And until Benitez chose to replace Juan Mata with Oscar it seemed the match would end goalless.
But the lively Brazilian played a cute one-two with Hazard on the edge of the box and raced ahead to place the ball low into the bottom left corner of the net.
It was a strike which ended Sparta's 11-match unbeaten home run in the competition and gave the Londoners a precious away goal ahead of next Thursday's second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea caretaker manager Rafael Benitez:
"Eighteen attempts away is not bad, but we have to be more clinical in attack. The first 20 minutes we were in control. We had some half chances; it was a cross, we weren't there. We were in control.
"After this 20 minutes they were pushing and pushing. The team, as a team, had problems defending.
"We changed a little bit in the second half. I think the concentration of the team was much better, the intensity in defence was much better and then we had more control."
Live text and stats
Thursday, 14 February 2013
- Sparta Prague 48%
- Chelsea 52%
Attempts on target
- Sparta Prague 3
- Chelsea 9
Attempts off target
- Sparta Prague 6
- Chelsea 5
- Sparta Prague 3
- Chelsea 3
- Sparta Prague 6
- Chelsea 12
- Full Time
- 90:00+3:01 The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.
- 88:51 Effort from just outside the box by Nascimento Ramires goes over the bar.
- Correction - 85:58 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Marek Matejovsky by Nascimento Ramires. Free kick taken by Marek Matejovsky.
- 85:58 Foul by Nascimento Ramires on Marek Matejovsky, free kick awarded. Marek Matejovsky takes the direct free kick.
- 84:33 Corner taken by Marek Matejovsky from the left by-line, Header from deep inside the area by Ondrej Svejdik goes harmlessly
over the crossbar.
- 84:21 Substitution Roman Bednar joins the action as a substitute, replacing Josef Husbauer.
- 83:08 Fernando Torres takes a shot. Fantastic save by Tomas Vaclik. Inswinging corner taken by Emboaba Oscar from the left by-line.
- 81:42 Assist on the goal came from Eden Hazard.
- 81:42 GOAL - Emboaba Oscar:Sparta Prague 0 - 1 Chelsea Emboaba Oscar finds the back of the net with a goal from the edge of the penalty box to the bottom left corner of the goal.
Sparta Prague 0-1 Chelsea.
- 80:33 Substitution Emboaba Oscar joins the action as a substitute, replacing Juan Mata.
- 80:33 Substitution Ladislav Krejci goes off and Manuel Pamic comes on.
- 80:14 Leonard Kweuke produces a right-footed shot from deep inside the penalty box which goes wide of the left-hand post.
- 78:18 Ladislav Krejci crosses the ball, save made by Petr Cech.
- 75:20 Substitution Leonard Kweuke on for David Lafata.
- 75:00 Ondrej Svejdik fouled by Eden Hazard, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Ondrej Svejdik.
- 73:12 The ball is delivered by Matej Hybs, save made by Petr Cech.
- 70:45 Shot by Fernando Torres from just outside the area goes over the net.
- 69:47 Frank Lampard takes a shot. Save by Tomas Vaclik.
- 67:12 Substitution Yossi Benayoun replaces Marko Marin.
- 66:23 The ball is delivered by Juan Mata, Headed effort from deep inside the penalty area by Fernando Torres goes harmlessly over
- 66:23 Booking Josef Husbauer goes into the book for unsporting behaviour.
- 66:21 Foul by Josef Husbauer on Nascimento Ramires, free kick awarded.
- 64:50 Vaclav Kadlec takes a shot. Blocked by Branislav Ivanovic.
- 62:59 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Vaclav Kadlec by Cesar Azpilicueta. Mario Holek takes the free kick.
- 57:53 Effort on goal by Frank Lampard from just outside the penalty area goes harmlessly over the target.
- 56:26 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Ladislav Krejci by Gary Cahill. Free kick crossed right-footed by Marek Matejovsky
from left channel, save by Petr Cech.
- 53:40 Fernando Torres gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Ondrej Svejdik. Tomas Vaclik takes the free kick.
- 51:41 Matej Hybs takes a shot. Petr Cech makes a comfortable save.
- 48:26 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Marko Marin by Lukas Vacha. Free kick crossed by Frank Lampard.
- 45:01 The second half kicks off.
- Half Time
- 45:00+0:06 The first half comes to an end.
- 44:44 Frank Lampard takes a shot. Save by Tomas Vaclik.
- 43:54 Corner from right by-line taken by Marek Matejovsky.
- 42:01 Josef Husbauer fouled by Marko Marin, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick crossed by Ladislav Krejci.
- 40:37 Free kick taken by Marek Matejovsky. Unfair challenge on Ladislav Krejci by Eden Hazard results in a free kick. Direct free
kick taken by Marek Matejovsky.
- 40:37 Booking Gary Cahill is given a yellow card.
- 40:29 Free kick awarded for a foul by Gary Cahill on David Lafata.
- 38:42 Handball by Josef Husbauer. Frank Lampard takes the free kick.
- 38:20 Fernando Torres takes a shot. Save by Tomas Vaclik.
- 37:10 Foul by David Lafata on Marko Marin, free kick awarded. Frank Lampard takes the direct free kick.
- 35:52 David Lafata has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the target.
- 34:40 Ladislav Krejci challenges Nascimento Ramires unfairly and gives away a free kick. Frank Lampard restarts play with the free
- 34:20 Fernando Torres takes a shot. Tomas Vaclik makes a comfortable save.
- 33:34 Marek Matejovsky takes a inswinging corner.
- 31:27 Eden Hazard takes a shot. Save made by Tomas Vaclik.
- 30:42 David Lafata is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Free kick taken by Petr Cech.
- 28:46 The referee blows for offside against Fernando Torres. Ondrej Svejdik takes the free kick.
- 26:35 Matej Hybs fouled by Eden Hazard, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Marek Matejovsky. Ladislav Krejci takes a
shot. Save by Petr Cech.
- 25:43 Shot from just outside the box by Marek Matejovsky goes over the target.
- 19:29 Free kick awarded for a foul by Fernando Torres on Marek Matejovsky. Marek Matejovsky takes the free kick. The assistant referee
flags for offside against Ladislav Krejci. Petr Cech takes the free kick.
- 17:13 The ball is sent over by Josef Husbauer, Vaclav Kadlec takes a shot. Gary Cahill gets a block in.
- 16:34 Frank Lampard takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Blocked by Ondrej Svejdik.
- 15:05 Tomas Zapotocny crosses the ball, Shot from deep inside the area by David Lafata goes over the bar.
- 14:09 Tomas Zapotocny challenges Frank Lampard unfairly and gives away a free kick. Frank Lampard takes the direct free kick.
- 13:35 Unfair challenge on Marek Matejovsky by Nascimento Ramires results in a free kick. Marek Matejovsky takes the direct free
- 10:49 Centre by Eden Hazard.
- 8:48 Marko Marin fouled by Tomas Zapotocny, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Eden Hazard.
- 7:46 Shot from deep inside the area by Fernando Torres clears the crossbar. Corner taken left-footed by Juan Mata.
- 7:16 Centre by Eden Hazard.
- Correction - 5:18 Juan Mata takes a short corner.
- 5:18 Short corner worked by Eden Hazard.
- 3:17 Frank Lampard takes a shot. Save by Tomas Vaclik.
- 1:40 Unfair challenge on David Lafata by Cesar Azpilicueta results in a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Ladislav Krejci.
- 0:00 The referee gets the game underway.
Live text and data provided by The Press Association.