Serie A title challenger Napoli was stunned 3-0 at home by Czech club Viktoria Plzen as Russia’s Anzhi Makhachkala and Zenit St. Petersburg opened up commanding first-leg advantages in their Europa League last 32 ties yesterday.
Goals from Vladimir Darida, Frantisek Rajtoral and Stanislav Tecl upset Napoli while Anzhi beat Hanover 3-1 and Zenit won 2-0 at home against five-time European Cup winner Liverpool.
Brazilian Oscar spared European champion Chelsea’s blushes late on against Czechs Sparta Prague to give the Londoners a 1-0 lead to take back to Stamford Bridge for the second leg next Thursday.
“We played a good match considering we’re only in the third week of preparation,” Anzhi coach Guus Hiddink told Russian television NTV Plus.
Chelsea, which dropped into the Europa League after being dumped out of the Champions League as holder in the group stage, fielded an equally strong side.
The English club flirted with a 0-0 draw until substitute Oscar’s 82-minute winner shortly after coming on.