There’s no bigger occasion than a Wednesday night at the home of the English champions and EDF chose to commemorate it by dumping DDR (probably due to an injury) and throwing Gerson up onto the right wing.
Chelsea who also happened to be suffering from injury Blues, rocked a funny old starting XI that included David Luiz in the midfield, Hazard and Morata up top, wingbacks and a back three.
Roma started brightly cheered on by the boisterous visiting tifosi. Perotti showed off his new sleeve of tatts slaloming through most of the retreating Chelsea side and launching a rasping shot just over the bar.
Meanwhile Chelsea took an entire ten minutes to take advantage of Roma’s less than Champions League quality defence. Luiz got onto the end of a loose ball and was given enough space in midfield to launch a speculative effort which although blocked by Jesus, improved the angle and field position of the ball enough for the Side Show Bob to rasp an unstoppable side-footed one timer past his Brazilian goalkeeper.
Seriously, have a look at the block by Jesus on a replay, he simply couldn’t have put it on a plate better for the big haired bloke.
Credit where credit is due for the finish, but the complete lack of closing down in the midfield was a rather damning evaluation of the absence of Roma’s capitano.
From here Roma steadied quite well and had plenty of positive moments on the ball as Conte withdrew Chelsea fully into counterattacking mode.
After some Luiz and Peres treatment time Roma had their best chance of the match thus far when Strootman fed Nainngolan on the right only for Courtois to spoil his Belgium buddy’s shot with a smart one v one save.
Chelsea kept sitting back and letting Roma play and it was soon Perotti’s turn to spurn a terrific opportunity with a weak shot that failed to trouble the keeper attired in traffic cone chic orange.
The Blues responded by isolating Roma’s two CBs on another gift of a counterattack, Fazio’s block fell sweetly for Hazard who produced a fantastic finish to put the Londoners 2-0 up.
As half time approached it was kind of annoying to acknowledge Conte’s rope-a-dope strategy was working beautifully when Kolarov showed his EPL experience with a tap and go prod into space followed by a rocket finish into the roof of the net to make it 2-1 from a tight angle.
Hell of a half really.
Roma looked really good with the ball when moving forward but the back gate was swinging in the wind whenever Hazard and Morata broke towards Allison’s goal. Roma’s kryptonite against a Conte side was always going to be giving away the ball to spark counters.
The second half got going in pretty much the same way the first one ended the same as the first, with Roma owning the ball and pinning the English champs back.
Dzeko was robbed of a tap in when Courtois somehow got a toe to deflect Kolarov’s wicked pullback out of the path of the Bosnian.
David Luiz succumbed to his earlier knock soon after, and was removed by Conte for the suspiciously single name of Pedro. The Spanish fly’s introduction aimed to pin Roma back and make the fullbacks more accountable. But then…
Out of another spell of pressure, Fazio dolled out a pass over the top of the entire Chelsea team – an assist Andrea Pirlo would be proud to own – into the stride of the Bosnian bomber who summarily executed a left footed volley as good as anything that had previously graced the Stamford Bridge. Take a bow you big, beautiful Bosnian!
I barely had time to think up a BREXIT joke when Perotti latched onto a Roma clearance and dribbled his way to the Chelsea penalty area and won himself a free kick. Kolarov then swerved in a beautiful delivery straight onto the unmarked melon of Roma’s best bomber since Batigol…
DZEKO SCORES AGAIN! with a lovely header! Roma lead 3-2 from 2-0 down. pic.twitter.com/OApUxjYxJ7— Mootaz Chehade (@MHChehade) October 18, 2017
Incredibly, Roma had gone ahead at the home of the English champions after being down 2-0 in the first half.
While the Roma faithful were dancing with glee, EDF subbed off Gerson and added Pellegrini into the fray.
And wouldn’t you know it, Chelsea got an equaliser a couple of minutes later when the two smallest men on the pitch combined while completely unmarked in the most dangerous of places. It kind of makes the 0-0 with Atletico Madrid all the more impressive really, considering how often this side seems to leak soft goals. Hazard headed goals shouldn’t be a thing, even if they are inch perfect.
EDF opted to remove Strootman for Florenzi for the final stanza of the match while Conte brought on Tony Rudiger to say “Cheery-oh!” to his old mates from Rome.
Chelsea looked more likely as the clock winded down and the Roma players began to tire from all of that possession. Diego Perotti was a late sub for SES minutes before Chelsea won a free kick in a dangerous area that resulted in a Cahill header over the top.
Roma got forward at the death and Peres struck in a dangerous low cross that Courtios once again managed to beat away to preserve a point for both sides.
Man oh man that was a hell of a match.
Easily the best performance of the EDF era and a gosh darn shame that Roma couldn’t close it out after taking a lead with less than twenty minutes remaining.
Tactically, Roma dominated this one for probably 83.752222 of the 90mins but a combination of poor luck and costly defensive lapses prevented this from entering Roman European folklore. I mean seriously, why the hell couldn’t one of the back five go body to body with Hazard?
Gerson was magnificent in his surprise appearance on the right wing and showed enough promise to warrant first team selection as a right rather than a privilege in the future. I wonder what he’d look like as a treq in a 4-2-3-1?
Dzeko produced a performance of the ages and can be forgiven for his late free header miss that would have made a hatrick worthy of a marble statue in Piazza Venezia.
Gonalons was serviceable but still seems to struggle in the Roma shirt, while Nainngolan and Perotti performed superbly despite failing to take some reasonable chances.
Word on the street is that Qarabag held Ateltico to a 0-0 draw which means Roma take second spot on the group and licking their lips for the return leg at the Olimpico on Halloween. Sit down with a jar of whatever the hell those candy corn things are, Roma has a real shot at making it out of this group.
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