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Čech, Azpilicueta impressed as Chelsea pip Sparta

Friday 22 February 2013 8.00 CET
Chelsea celebrate the goal that took them through

Petr Čech sympathised with compatriots AC Sparta Praha at the end of his 100th European fixture and said it was cruel that they had gone out to a stunning Eden Hazard strike in added time that levelled the score on the night and sent Chelsea FC through 2-1 on aggregate. Sparta thus missed out on a UEFA Europa League round of 16 date with FC Steaua Bucureşti, but David Lafata acknowledged that his side had lost to a piece of individual brilliance from the Chelsea midfielder.

Petr Čech, Chelsea goalkeeper
The game did not go according to the script at all. Everyone wrote Sparta off but I said before the match that if they managed to score a goal it would be very interesting. We missed chances in the second half and with that came a growing possibility for Sparta to take the game into extra time. In the end they missed it by 20 seconds. It was very cruel to concede from the very last shot of the match but with the chances we had I think we deserved to score in the end.

I think everyone knew that Sparta would need a bit of luck – that they would have to play their best and also that they would need the help of their goalkeeper. All of that happened. Tomáš Vaclík caught the ball very well, he saved a lot of shots and the woodwork also saved him on one occasion. And his defence managed to get some important blocks in as well. The occasion was good for Czech football. People will remember that they only conceded in the last minute and made a very good match against us.

César Azpilicueta, Chelsea defender
The main thing is to progress in this competition. It was a very difficult game today but we kept pushing until the end. We now play two games against Steaua but it's not really about other teams. Our biggest rivals are ourselves. Obviously we want to keep going in this competition and win it.

Sparta are a good team. They were pushing and playing good football. We were waiting and we had chances but we were suffering until the very end. When the team is in a good position and going forward we need to be aware of the dangers from counterattacks. We need to manage this situation.

David Lafata, Sparta striker
We left everything on the field and we have nothing to be ashamed of. We were fighting until the end and it was a 50-50 situation – it was going to go our way or not. It was a piece of brilliant individual skill that won it for Chelsea. [Hazard] went past two players and then struck it into the top corner so the goalkeeper had no chance to save it. He hit it better than I did for my goal.

Vaclav Kadlec gave me a perfect pass and Petr Čech was a little bit out of his goal. He was coming back and I did not want to hit him. It was a nice feeling to score in this stadium but the disappointment at losing to that goal at the end is greater than the happiness I felt at my goal.

Marek Matějovský, Sparta midfielder
We spoke about it before the match, that the most important thing was the result. So there's no reason to talk about when we conceded the goal. The result was not in our favour today and that's it – end of story.

Of course it might have been different if I had scored with that shot in the second half. I regret that – it was not far from the goal. My biggest mistake was missing the target because I think if it had been on target it would have been a goal.

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