Ryan Bertrand: Chelsea never feared Europa League exit

 

Full-back Ryan Bertrand never feared Chelsea would crash out of the Europa League last night, despite waiting until the final kick of the game to seal their progress to the last 16.

Substitute Eden Hazard's stunning stoppage-time strike secured a 1-1 draw that eventually saw of Sparta Prague's persistence.

But the Czechs left west London feeling as though they had missed their chance to pull off a shock after David Lafata had equalised on 17 minutes.

While Chelsea dominated possession thereafter, Rafael Benitez's side lacked a convincing cutting edge - highlighted by misfiring striker Fernando Torres.

The Spaniard missed four clear-cut chances to stretch a barren run that has seen him score just once in his past 14 appearances.

Torres' profligacy perhaps should have been punished in full as Sparta, a constant menace on the break, wasted their own chances late on to send Chelsea out of a sixth competition this season.

Bertrand, however, remained convinced his side would eventually find the telling blow to set up a clash with Steaua Bucharest in the next round.

"I never thought that we would lose," he said.

"I always felt quite confident we were going to get (an equaliser), it was just a matter of when.

"I think we started well and their goal came as a surprise to many of us.

"We were saying on the pitch: 'forget about that now and move on'.

"We were confident enough that we could get the result, which we did, although we left it late."

While Torres' latest blooper reel of misses grabbed the headlines, Chelsea's susceptibility to counter-attacks offered further reason for frustration around Stamford Bridge.

After Gary Cahill had been turned inside out in the box before the opener he and defensive partner John Terry were more than once forced into saving tackles to spare the home side's blushes.

"They hit is a few times on the counter-attack," Bertrand said.

"We were on top for nearly all of the second half, it was making sure we didn't let them get that second sucker punch.

"We had to make sure we concentrated and nullified that threat.

"Then, thankfully, Eden came on and showed us what he can do."

Hazard had replaced Oscar on 67 minutes - which was welcomed by boos from a home contingent who had expected Torres might instead get the hook - but Benitez's decision was vindicated in the end.

Hazard was a £32million buy from Lille in the summer and he showed what that sort of money should buy with a piercing bit of skill to settle the contest.

"It was a fantastic goal. He is some player," Bertrand said.

"It comes as no surprise to us. It was a fantastic goal and a fantastic display from him personally."

The 2-1 aggregate success sets up another trip to eastern Europe in the next round after Steaua overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat Ajax on penalties in the Romanian capital last night.

"That will be a tough proposition," Bertrand said.

"For them to take a 2-0 deficit back home and overturn that proves that it will be a hard place to go to.

"A club like Chelsea expects silverware. We expect that year in, year out so we'll try our best."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk