Posted on: Thu 21 Feb 2013

It took a last-gasp Eden Hazard strike to secure our place in the last 16 of the Europa League with the game seemingly heading for extra-time.

David Lafata had levelled the tie on aggregate when he opened the scoring midway through the first half for Sparta Prague, and while the Blues had chances after the break, particularly through Ramires and Torres, there were also scares at the other end.

Lafata wasted a chance right at the death to send the visitors through, and they were made to pay immediately when we raced up the other end and scored the decisive goal, setting up a clash with Steaua Bucharest, who defeated Ajax on penalties.

Rafael Benitez was a relieved man as he reflected on the game…

On the performance
'We had two or three chances before they scored, and we knew if we scored first it would be difficult for them mentally,' said the Chelsea manager. 'The opposite happened, they scored and then we had to manage the anxiety.

'I felt we did well, we had 22 attempts, clear chances, and we had 60 per cent possession, but we made some mistakes and gave them the chance to play on the counter-attack.

'We knew it could be like this, we didn't do well in a few situations and obviously that's something we need to improve, we need to keep working hard.

'We rested some players and still had 22 attempts, that's because the team was doing well. With different players you can approach the game in a different way but I was really happy with the performance of the team.

'I would prefer to score goals and be more relaxed, but in terms of confidence and belief it's positive knowing you can keep going until the end and get a result.'

On the decisive substitution and Eden Hazard's form
'The team was doing well, it wasn't easy to pick anyone, we decided on Oscar because Moses was giving us width on the right and we thought Hazard would on the left as Sparta were defending deep. Eden has the quality and ability, and he made the difference at the end.

'For any player to have some time off is good. Tonight I was thinking I'd give him a rest and he'd be ready for the next game, but you could see he was fresh and confident. He did good things for us, defenders know him a bit better now though and managers can prepare a game-plan to cope with him.'

On the performance of Fernando Torres
'We can be talking about him not scoring goals, but he had four chances. I've seen some games where he's not been in the right position and didn't have any chances, but tonight he did. The goalkeeper did well with a few of them.

'He was there, in the right place at the right time and working very hard for the team. We are disappointed he didn't score but very pleased with his work-rate, movement and everything he did for the team.

'He's playing better, you can analyse a striker for the goals he scores, but tonight he did a great job. It's not easy to press a team who are comfortable in possession but he did that job. He was winning balls in the air and giving options to the players around him.'

On the importance of winning the Europa League
'It's important to have a clear idea, but we are not thinking about the final, it's one game at a time. What's important was to win tonight, and to do it by working as hard as we did will be good for the confidence and belief.'

On Sunday's Premier League game away at Manchester City
'It's an important game, if we win we will be closer, but we still have a lot of games to play and I think the race for the top four will run until the end of the season.'