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Blues into Europa League semi-finals after Stamford Bridge thriller


Pedro scored twice and created another to fire Chelsea into the Europa League semi-finals following a thrilling 4-3 (5-3 aggregate) win over Slavia Prague on Thursday night.
The Spaniard saw his delightful chipped effort open the scoring in just the fifth minute before he struck the post but saw the ball rebound off Simon Deli's face and into the net five minutes later.
Olivier Giroud then netted his 10th Europa League goal of the season from Pedro's pass before Slavia Prague captain Tomas Soucek handed the visitors hope with a fierce effort from a corner kick.
Despite Pedro's 27th-minute goal seemingly taking the game out of reach for Slavia Prague, Petr Sevcik's stunning second-half brace highlighted once again the startling difference in performances for Chelsea in the first and second halves of many matches this season.
However, Maurizio Sarri's side survived a second-half scare to progress to the Europa League last four where they will face Eintracht Frankfurt.
Despite the fact that Chelsea came into the second-leg clash with Slavia Prague leading the tie 1-0, Sarri decided to field a strong side for fear of seeing the visitors, who created several chances and remained relatively organised in defence last week, stunning the Blues.
But any fears Sarri may have had about Slavia Prague beginning the game strongly were quashed within just five minutes when Pedro - back in the starting line-up along with four other changes to the side that lost 2-0 away to Liverpool on Sunday - opened the scoring.
Following some lovely collective build-up play by the Blues, Giroud played the key, one-touch pass into Pedro who chipped the ball over goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar.
It then took just four minutes for Chelsea to score another, this time Pedro's near-post effort from Eden Hazard's cross crashed off the post only to hit Simon Deli in the face and fly into the back of his own net.
The Spaniard was clearly enjoying his time on the pitch, but so too was Giroud - the Europa League's top scorer this season - who did not just create the opener but also played a role in Chelsea's second.
A goal was all that was missing from the striker's performance on Thursday night, and the 32-year-old got it in the 17th minute when he coolly drove in Pedro's cross from the right.
Chelsea were dominant in the first half of the contest, but the Blues didn't have it all their own way. Indeed, Kepa Arrizabalaga was forced to save Deli's header from a free-kick, which led to a corner kick from which Tomas Soucek scored from.
But if the visitors thought they had hauled themselves back into the tie, they suffered a sucker-punch just a minute later when Pedro netted to make it 4-1.
Perhaps Slavia Prague had watched replays of Chelsea's two recent away losses to Everton and Liverpool - in which the Blues had two differing first and second halves - because they emerged from the break in blistering fashion and were rewarded with two goals in the space of four minutes.
Sevcik was the goalscorer on both occasions, with two almost identical goals - the first, a long-range effort that Kepa will feel he should have saved at his near post and the second, a stunner that flew into the top corner of the left-hand side of the net.
Sarri sent on Jorginho and Willian in a bid to steady the ship, and that they did as Chelsea nervously advanced to the semi-finals of a competition they are aiming to win because of how tight the top-four race is becoming in the Premier League.