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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 November, 2003, 21:36 GMT
Chelsea reach knockout stage
Frank Lampard (left) tussles with Pavel Krmas
Chelsea 0-0 Sparta Prague

Chelsea qualified from Group G of the Champions League after a drab goalless draw against Sparta Prague at Stamford Bridge.

After the heroics of their 4-0 win at Lazio, Chelsea served up a flat performance against a team that was content to spoil the game with their defensive formation and leave with a point.

Hernan Crespo twice went close for the home side, William Gallas should have scored late on and Adrian Mutu failed with a one-on-one after 90 minutes.

But Chelsea, much stronger than in previous seasons, never looked like losing and now focus on Sunday's match againt Manchester United.

Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri opted against recalling fit again Marcel Desailly, sticking with William Gallas and John Terry in the centre of defence.

But as it turned out Chelsea's back line had a quiet evening.

Sparta seemed happy to concede territory and defend in numbers, challenging Chelsea to break them down in tight spaces.

We found some good space to score, but that little bit of luck was not with us
Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri

The home team almost did that after two minutes when Frank Lampard's raking pass picked out Crespo in space on the edge of the Sparta area.

But, after a superb first touch, the Argentine opted to go alone despite players in space on either side and the opening petered out.

Chelsea toiled before creating another decent opening.

Lampard blazed narrowly over after 21 minutes, while Crespo crashed a header against the crossbar shortly afterwards.

The rebound was snatched by Mutu, who passed for Crespo to slide home from three yards but the goal was harshly ruled out for offside.

Sparta reminded Chelsea of their own capabilities after 32 minutes when Libor Sionko just headed over after an incisive break down the right.

KEY MOMENTS
27 mins: Crespo's goal is ruled out for offside
46 mins: Crespo misses by inches
81 mins: Gallas misses a glorious chance

Joe Cole later forced a decent save from Jaromir Blazek but Chelsea's first-half play lacked inspiration and Sionko should have done better shooting on the turn just before the interval.

Chelsea opened the second-half with an awesome break that culminated with Crespo's impudent backheel missing the targets by inches.

But the pattern of the first half soon re-established itself, with Chelsea frustrated by the opposition's doughty - and effective - defence.

As the match wore on Sparta gradually showed more intent but it was Chelsea who should have scored a late winner.

Gallas should have tapped Terry's header home from two yards but tried to head the ball and missed.

Mutu then failed to hit the target when clean through close to the final whistle.


Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot, Terry, Gallas, Bridge, Duff, Makelele, Lampard, Cole (Geremi 73), Crespo (Gudjohnsen 73), Mutu.
Subs Not Used: Ambrosio, Babayaro, Desailly, Hasselbaink, Gronkjaer.

Sparta Prague: Blazek, Pergl, Hubschman, Homola, Labant, Poborsky, Kovac, Zelenka (Flachbart 87), Krmas, Michalik (Igor Gluscevic 72), Sionko (Jezek 90).
Subs Not Used: Kouba, Kincl, Jun, Zboncak.

Attendance: 40,152

Referee: Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark).






WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Five Live's David Oates
"Sparta Prague's stoic defence denied Chelsea on numerous occasions"


Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri
"I'm very pleased with our performance - we showed a winning mentality"




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