Wednesday 20 June 2018

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Blues hit back to earn point despite double from Dzeko

Chelsea 3 Roma 3

Chelsea's Eden Hazard celebrates scoring his side's third goal with Gary Cahill and Marcos Alonso. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters
Chelsea's Eden Hazard celebrates scoring his side's third goal with Gary Cahill and Marcos Alonso. Photo: John Sibley/Reuters

Jason Burt

Chelsea were defensively catastrophic, alarm bells ringing amid rising panic, before relying on Eden Hazard to rescue them with the second of his two goals, averting a third successive defeat.

Chelsea remain in control of Group C but their 100pc record has gone and this was a far from perfect performance, although they did show resilience to rally against a fine Roma side who threatened to overwhelm them in a pulsating, attacking encounter.

As impressive as Roma were going forward, with their goals coming from former Manchester City players, this was another worryingly ragged performance from Chelsea who host Marco Silva's high-flying Watford in the Premier League on Saturday lunchtime.

They surrendered a two-goal lead and that would have infuriated manager Antonio Conte.

Roma's Edin Dzeko celebrates scoring their third goal. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
Roma's Edin Dzeko celebrates scoring their third goal. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Two Premier League defeats, after the brilliance of winning away at Atletico Madrid in this competition, had turned the atmosphere around at Chelsea.

So, an early goal would surely calm that. And it came. David Luiz, back in midfield with Conte reverting to the 3-5-2 he had used to such profound effect in Madrid, nicked the ball away and rolled a pass towards Alvaro Morata.

It was intercepted by Juan Jesus but only into the path of Luiz, who ran on to it and arced a powerful shot around Jesus and beyond goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

The relief was palpable; helped by the fabulous nature of the goal.

The return of Morata, who had already shot into Alisson's hands when set up by Hazard, and been dumped to the turf by former Tottenham defender Federico Fazio, also made a difference.

With Morata's hamstring having recovered, Michy Batshuayi was back on the bench, with Conte having made it clear he had no faith in the striker.

Chelsea's Tiemoue Bakayoko (left) and Roma's Diego Perotti battle for the ball during the match at Stamford Bridge. Photo: Tim Goode/PA
Chelsea's Tiemoue Bakayoko (left) and Roma's Diego Perotti battle for the ball during the match at Stamford Bridge. Photo: Tim Goode/PA

But Roma had started well. Maybe they sensed Chelsea's vulnerability because they had quickly camped in their half, with Diego Perotti dancing through to fire over.

After falling behind they pushed on again knowing that, with Atletico having stumbled to a goalless draw in Azerbaijan against Qarabag, they had a real opportunity of progressing out of this group.

Even before the goal, though, it seemed Chelsea's game-plan was to play on the counter-attack and they did that when Hazard seized on a loose pass and used Morata as a decoy only to drag his low shot wide. It proved a warning.

Roma threatened and should have drawn level when Marcos Alonso was caught forward and the ball was angled into the area by Kevin Strootman with a clever reverse pass for Radja Nainggolan to meet first-time, only for Thibaut Courtois to block his effort.

Encouraged, Roma broke again with Edin Dzeko tricking his way past Morata and setting up Perotti.

With a clear sight of goal he shot weakly at Courtois. They paid the price.

Roma's Edin Dzeko
Roma's Edin Dzeko

Again Hazard stole the ball away, dispossessing Bruno Peres and finding Morata, whose shot looped up off Fazio and dropped for Hazard to steer past Alisson. It was his first Champions League goal since March 2015.

Game over? Not so. The third former Premier League player, and the second from City, Aleksandar Kolarov, outwitted Cesar Azpilicueta and arrowed a rising left-footed effort that clipped off Andreas Christensen to finally beat Courtois.

Roma poured forward again and Luiz managed to turn the ball away at the far post as Peres seemed certain to equalise.

Convincing

Chelsea remained in front but it was far from convincing. And it remained so into the second half, with Radja Nainggolan's goal-bound shot charged down and Gerson firing over.

Conte had seen enough with Luiz taken off, possibly struggling through injury as he headed down the tunnel shaking his head, and Pedro introduced.

Chelsea had to relieve the pressure but could not do so, with a quite wonderful goal from Dzeko (above) deservedly drawing Roma level.

Fazio floated the ball into the area and the striker pulled away from Christensen to thump a controlled left-footed volley past Courtois.

Chelsea appeared to crumble. Tiemoue Bakayoko clumsily conceded a free-kick which Kolarov curled in for Dzeko to steal between Christensen and Azpilicueta to glance his header beyond Courtois.

Chelsea were shambolic and it seemed they were spent until Pedro sent a cross into the area and Hazard was left unmarked to steer his own header away from Alisson to draw his side level.

It ended even, which was the least Roma deserved.

(©The Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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