Chelsea travelled to the Italian capital of Rome for a Champions League clash against one of Italy’s top teams. The Blues knew that a Halloween night win would secure them qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions League, while Roma were looking to go top of Group C and put themselves in a commanding position going forwards. With Atletico Madrid struggling both of these teams knew that a loss in this fixture would be catastrophic, so it was interesting to see how both sides approached such a crucial game.
El Shaarawy stuns the Stadio Olimpico
Before this correspondent had even finished writing his introduction the Italian giants took the lead in the Stadio Olimpico, courtesy of a sensational strike from Stephan El Shaarawy after just 39 seconds. The ball fell to the winger after some good target man work from Edin Dzeko and the Italian struck a thunderbolt of a shot with the outside of his right foot, before watching it fly past Thibault Courtois in the Chelsea goal. It was a simply stunning strike that shocked the entire stadium, especially the flat-footed visitors.
To their credit Chelsea responded well and had a great chance of their own just moments after the opening goal. Eden Hazard found himself in on goal but couldn’t quite squeeze his shot past Alisson Becker, who made a smart save to deny the Belgian. The Blues looked fluid going forward with both Morata and Hazard experiencing success running the channels, and as Chelsea settled into the game they began to dominate the possession. Hazard had two decent opportunities but both times struck his shots straight at Becker.
Rudiger lets Roma double their lead
Roma have a remarkable defensive record in the Serie A this season but the Italian side almost gifted Alvaro Morata a goal on the 25-minute mark. In a dangerous attempt at playing out from the back Aleksandar Kolarov passed straight to the feet of the Chelsea striker who somehow blazed a shot over the crossbar from five yards out. As Chelsea pressed for an equaliser Roma started to play on the break, and El Shaarawy had a great chance to double the home side’s lead, which was well saved by Courtois.
Moments later however the winger did manage to bag his second goal of the game after a horrendous defensive mistake from Antonio Rudiger against his former club. The 24-year old elected to leave a long pass from Radja Nainggolan, assuming it would run on to his goalkeeper, but instead El Shaarawy nipped in and guided the ball home with a deft flick to extend the home side’s lead.
Once again Chelsea responded positively to the setback and both Marcos Alonso and Tiemoue Bakayoko missed opportunities just before the break. Alonso saw his right-footed shot well saved, and Bakayoko’s header from the ensuing corner flew just wide of the post. Despite their best efforts however the Blues couldn’t find a way through the resolute Roma defence and the Italians went into half time with a comfortable two-goal cushion.
Perotti grabs a third for rampant Roma
Despite their lead it was the home side who came out looking brighter for the second half and Dzeko almost managed to convert a twisting acrobatic effort in the early minutes. Chelsea struggled to put together any cohesive attacking moves and lacked the urgency of a side chasing a game. Antonio Conte decided to change things as the hour mark approached and Willian replaced Gary Cahill as the Blues switched to a conventional back four, looking to be more competitive in midfield.
The tactical changes allowed the visitors to maintain some more consistent possession but it was Roma who looked more dangerous as the repeatedly caught Chelsea on the counter. The onslaught of pacey attacks proved too much for Chelsea and eventually Diego Perotti put the game out of sight for the home side, who played with incredibly confidence and flair. The Argentine picked up the ball on the edge of the box and drilled in his shot at the near post, beating Courtois with simple power and placement, and highlighting his side’s undeniable dominance.
Il Giallorosso cruise to comfortable victory
Perotti almost doubled his tally and turned the game into a rout just minutes after his goal after some excellent work from Dzeko. The Bosnian turned brilliantly past three Chelsea defenders and teed up Perotti, but the forward blasted his shot over the crossbar when it looked for all the world like he would bury it. As the game progressed Roma started to enjoy themselves and Dzeko found gaps in behind the Chelsea defence on multiple occasions.
Central defender Kostas Manolas, who had come on as a late substitute, almost became the next Roma name on the score sheet with a bullet header, but Courtois pulled off a spectacular reaction save to deny the Greek international. The home fans were enjoying themselves in the closing moments, sarcastically cheering whenever a Chelsea player completed a pass or took on a shot. In the end Roma ran out as comfortable winners in a game that never really looked in doubt for the Italian club.
This was a stunning victory for Roma, who jumped straight to the top of Group C and put themselves in the perfect position to secure qualification for the knockout stages. In this game it was El Shaarawy who stepped up, but on another night Dzeko, who played a wonderful game tonight, could have bagged himself a couple of goals. This is a team with bags of quality in all areas of the pitch and the likes of Nainggolan and Manolas will ensure that this side goes deep into the tournament. Roma look good enough to beat any side in the competition on their day and could well be considered dark horses in the prestigious European competition.
Despite this awful performance and result Chelsea still find themselves in a relatively comfortable position in the group, especially since Atletico Madrid failed to beat Qarabag in the Spanish capital. The Blues should still progress to the knockout stage but this performance will worry Antonio Conte, especially the shaky nature of their defending. Knockout football is far less forgiving and a loss such as this will not serve Chelsea well should they make it any significant distance into the competition.
Roma: Becker; Florenzi (Manolas, 76’), Fazio, Jesus, Kolarov; Nainggolan, De Rossi, Strootman; El Shaaraway (Gerson, 75’), Dzeko, Perotti (Pellegrini, 87’)
Chelsea: Courtois; Luiz, Cahill (Willian, 56’), Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Alonso, Fabregas (Drinkwater, 71’), Bakayoko; Pedro, Hazard, Morata (Batshuayi, 75’)
Goals: El Shaarawy (1-0, 1’), El Shaarawy (2-0, 36’), Perotti (3-0, 63’)
Referee: Jonas Eriksson
Yellow Cards: None
Red Cards: None
Roma: Becker 7; Florenzi 8 (Manolas 7), Fazio 8, Jesus 8, Kolarov 8; Nainggolan 8.5, De Rossi 8, Strootman 8; El Shaaraway 9 (Gerson 7), Dzeko 9, Perotti 9 (Pellegrini n/a)
Chelsea: Courtois 6; Luiz 5, Cahill 6 (Willian), Rudiger 5; Azpilicueta 6, Alonso 6, Fabregas 6 (Drinkwater 5), Bakayoko 5; Pedro 6, Hazard 6, Morata 5 (Batshuayi 6)
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