By William Schomberg
LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea reached the Europa League semi-finals by beating Slavia Prague 4-3 helped by a Pedro double in a first-half onslaught before withstanding the Czech’s comeback bid after the break in a pulsating game on Thursday.
Chelsea were cruising 4-1 at halftime but Slavia added two goals early in the second period with powerful strikes by Petr Sevcik, which narrowed the aggregate score to 5-3 after the London side had won the first leg 1-0.
Sevcik spurned a chance to cut the deficit further before Chelsea held on to see out the win and set up a semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt, who won 2-0 against Benfica to go through on away goals after a 4-4 aggregate scoreline.
Chelsea raced into a 3-0 lead within 17 minutes, starting with Pedro chipping goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar. The Spain winger hit the post four minutes later only for the ball to rebound into the face of Simon Deli and into the net for an own goal.
Pedro carved out Chelsea’s third when he squared for a simple finish by Olivier Giroud and the scurrying Spaniard claimed Chelsea’s fourth goal in the 27th minute when he converted a rebound after Kolar saved from Giroud.
A minute earlier, Slavia’s captain Tomas Soucek had given the boisterous Czech fans something to cheer at Stamford Bridge when he powered in a header from a corner.
A Chelsea triumph in the Europa League, a trophy they won in 2013, would provide a way back into the Champions League if they finish outside Premier League top four this season. They currently sit fifth in the table.
(Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Ken Ferris)