Eden Hazard bagged a brace as Chelsea drew 3-3 with Italian giants Roma at Stamford Bridge in a topsy-turvy Champions League encounter. The Blues initially led 2-0 before being pegged back to 2-3 in the second half, before the Belgian salvaged a crucial point for Antonio Conte’s men.

The enormity of the game in the context of the group was heightened by Atletico Madrid’s 0-0 draw with FK Qarabag earlier in the evening – meaning that if either side could get a win at Stamford Bridge, their chances of qualification from the group would increase dramatically.

Conte makes three crucial changes

Antonio Conte made three changes from the team that were beaten at Crystal Palace. Andreas Christensen came in at centre-back, which allowed David Luiz to pull the strings in the centre of midfield. Davide Zappacosta made a like-for-like switch with the injured Victor Moses at right wing-back and Alvaro Morata made a swift return from injury to replace Michy Batshuayi in the forward line.

The changes appeared to work as the Blues started well; Bakayoko nipped in to feed Hazard, whose nifty footwork fed Morata, but the Spaniard could only fire straight at Ramses Becker in the Roma goal when he perhaps should have done better. Diego Perotti gave a sign of things to come at the other end for Roma with an individual run and shot that soared over the crossbar.

Chelsea race into early lead

It took 11 minutes for the deadlock to be broken as David Luiz’s attempted pass to Morata was cut out, and as it rolled back to him, the enigmatic Brazilian caressed the ball into the corner of the net from all of 25 yards – with the aplomb of a 30-goal-a-season striker.

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The goal seemed to kick Roma into action, with Edin Dzeko causing a multitude of problems for the Chelsea defence. He played in Perotti and Radja Nainggolan, who both failed to beat the busy Thibaut Courtois in the Chelsea goal. At the other end, Eden Hazard chose to shoot rather than pass to the better-placed Morata, but in the 37th minute, against the run of play, the Blues doubled their lead.

Morata looked to have missed the opportunity to shoot on the edge of the box and was crowded out but his attempted effort looped up off Federico Fazio perfectly into the path of Hazard, who finished with ease on the volley from eight yards out. It was the Belgian’s first European goal for Chelsea since March 2015.

Former Man City stars come back to haunt Blues

Once again, the goal spurred Roma on and this time they got their just rewards. Former Manchester City left-back Aleksandar Kolarov breezed past Cesar Azpilicueta to fire past Courtois into the roof of the net – with the aid of a deflection from Christensen giving Roma hope going into the half-time interval.

Roma started the second half in the same fashion and on 64 minutes were level with one of the goals of the Champions League so far. Fazio’s diagonal ball out of defence was met emphatically on the volley by Dzeko, who smashed the ball home from 12 yards out. It was a special goal from the Bosnian, who wasn’t finished there.

The two former Manchester City men combined once more in the 70th minute from a free-kick on the edge of the area, as Kolarov swung the ball onto Dzeko’s perfectly directed glancing header, which sent the Roma faithful into hysterics. Their lead only lasted five minutes, however, as Hazard demonstrated some excellent heading ability of his own – expertly guiding Pedro’s intelligent cross into the far corner of the net on 75 minutes, to set up a grandstand finish.

Hazard’s second saves the points

Their lead only lasted five minutes, however, as Hazard demonstrated some excellent heading ability of his own – expertly guiding Pedro’s intelligent cross into the far corner of the net on 75 minutes to set up a grandstand finish.

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It was Dzeko and Roma who came closest to pinching the points – his near-post header fizzed just past Courtois post but both sides will be pleased with their displays and with the return fixture on the horizon on October 31, the two teams will be able to lock horns again.

Chelsea are back in action on Saturday lunchtime as they face high-flying Watford at Stamford Bridge before hosting Everton in the Carabao Cup next Wednesday.

Roma, meanwhile, travel to Torino on Sunday for their next Serie A fixture.

Header image: “Champions League Ball” (CC BY-ND 2.0) by prakash_ut