Chelsea and Roma share spoils in six-goal thriller
Chelsea spent much of the first half on the back foot but was clinical when it mattered as they moved into a 2-0 lead.
Edin Dzeko scored twice on his 100th appearance for Roma in an enthralling contest as the Italians stormed back from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 with 20 minutes remaining, only for Eden Hazard to salvage a point for Group C leaders Chelsea with a header.
The goal flow began in the 11th minute when David Luiz’s curler put Chelsea ahead and when Hazard doubled the home side’s advantage in the 36th, it looked like being a routine night for Antonio Conte’s side.
Aleksandar Kolarov fired Roma back into contention before the interval though and Dzeko’s double in the space of six minutes, the first a scorching volley, looked to have earned Roma only their second win in 16 attempts on English soil.
Hazard’s equaliser kept Chelsea top with seven points from three games with Roma on five -- three ahead of Atletico Madrid who was surprisingly held to a 0-0 draw by Qarabag.
“It is a good result for both teams but when you are 2-0 up at home you must win the game,” Hazard said.
“Now we have to play in Rome but we will try to win the game. After two defeats it’s not easy to bounce back.”
Chelsea, reeling from successive Premier League defeats, spent much of the first half on the back foot but were clinical when it mattered as they moved into a 2-0 lead.
The hosts went ahead when Luiz, playing in central midfield in place of the injured N‘Golo Kante, produced a stunning curler from 25 metres past Roma keeper Alisson Becker.
Radja Nainggolan and Diego Perotti wasted gilt-edged chances for Roma and those misses looked terminal for Roma’s hopes when Chelsea struck again with a 36th-minute counter-attack.
Alvaro Morata and Hazard combined before Morata’s cross spun off a Roma defender and into the path of Hazard who rammed home his side’s second.
Conte said he never felt his side were “in control” and the tide began to turn Roma’s way when Kolarov was allowed to burst into the area before firing a shot that nicked off Andreas Christensen on its way past Thibaut Courtois and into the net.
Roma began the second half full of purpose and Dzeko looked poised to tap-in Kolarov’s low cut back only to see the ball diverted off his toes by the alert Courtois.
A disgruntled Luiz was replaced by Pedro but Roma had taken a stranglehold and levelled in stunning fashion as Dzeko belted an unstoppable left-foot volley beyond Courtois.
Six minutes later Dzeko took his tally for the season to 12 goals in all competitions for club and country, the Bosnian hitman left unmarked to head in Kolarov’s free kick.
Roma’s lead lasted only four minutes though as Hazard glanced in Pedro’s cross with a superb header.
There was still time for both sides to win a classic encounter, the best falling to Dzeko who inexplicably headed wide from point-blank range.
Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco praised his side’s character.
“We were two goals down after two individual mistakes but we had 70% of the ball in the first half,” he said. “We tried to win with the right mentality.”