Sparta Prague vs. Chelsea: Blues Must Play Better After Close Call vs Reds

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIFebruary 14, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Fernando Torres of Chelsea looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge on February 9, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The Europa League knockout phase is underway, and kicking things off for Chelsea was Sparta Prague. Facing a team they were heavily favored over, Chelsea barely escaped the Reds with a 1-0 win.

A win is a win, but the inconsistencies in this game set a disappointing tone of the Blues.

Obviously no team that's gotten this far is without talent, and the Reds—led by young forward Vaclav Kadlec—are no different.

But Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez brought a strong squad to face the Czech team, and to escape with a 1-0 win is nothing to be proud of.

The Blues stole their win in the 82nd minute after an Oscar goal seconds after coming off the bench.

It was just another inconsistent match from the Blues who saw wasted opportunity after wasted opportunity in this one.

For much of the first half Chelsea was in total control but couldn't do anything to get the ball past Sparta keeper Tomas Vaclik.

Right before the half way point things turned in the favor of the Czechs, and that momentum carried over for much of the rest of the game.

The Reds had a chance to equalize late in the game but came up short.

Chelsea star striker Fernando Torres had a rough go, missing key shots in both the first and second half.

The Blues star scorer lacked any confidence in this game and failed to find his dangerous first touch, making it just another example of Chelsea playing inconsistent football.

While this marked the club's second win in a row, it was previously mired in a four game winless streak.

Already knocked out of the Champions League, the Europa League is Chelsea's best shot at continental glory.

But things are only going to get harder, and the Blues need to start playing better football.

Torres has to find his confidence, because without it he's not an elite scorer. The defense—saved by Petr Cech for most of the day—has to start playing better as a whole.

It's been a tumultuous season for the Blues, and they've played a lot of matches lately. But the talent on this squad is too good, and they need to start showing it.

Until the Blues can step things up, they're going to continue to struggle on the pitch. Next time, they might not be so lucky to walk away with a win.