Chelsea endured a torrid evening in Rome as they were comfortably beaten at the Stadio Olimpico. Although the Blues had their chances, the 3-0 scoreline didn’t flatter the hosts and Conte will be searching for answers from his team.
Much of the pre-match talk centred around N’Golo Kante’s potential return to the Chelsea starting XI; however, he failed a late fitness test and his absence was felt instantly.
Blues endure shocking start
Chelsea should have taken the lead through Pedro after 21 seconds but couldn’t and were punished as the hosts went up the other end and opened the scoring through a screamer from Stephan El Shaarawy, who scored the sixth-quickest Champions League goal of the past decade, following good work from ex-Manchester City duo Aleksandar Kolarov and Edin Dzeko.
The Blues responded brightly and should have equalised through Alvaro Morata – but the Spaniard got it all wrong from six yards out, meaning he has now gone five games without a goal and looks short of confidence.
The biggest plus of the evening was Eden Hazard, who looks to be returning to fitness and form, and his energy and direct play caused Roma problems all evening. The Belgian tested Becker in the Roma goal twice as the Chelsea looked for parity, but their defensive issues reared their ugly head again on 36 minutes.
El Shaarawy doubles hosts’ lead
Former Roma man, Antonio Rudiger, misjudged the flight of the ball and paid the ultimate price as El Shaarawy nipped in and tucked the ball past the onrushing Courtois to double the task at hand for Chelsea.
Antonio Conte shuffled his pack in the second half – removing Gary Cahill for Willian – which failed to have the desired effect, as, in the 63rd minute, the game was effectively sealed. Pedro failed to close down Diego Perotti, who cut inside and smashed home to send Roma top of the group.
Chelsea’s defence in further disarray
The Blues were in disarray for the remainder of the game and were lucky not concede more as firstly, the impressive Dzeko drew three defenders and squared to Perotti, who couldn’t finish with the goal at his mercy. Thibaut Courtois also came to the rescue with an impressive late save from a Kostas Manolas header.
The final whistle came as a relief for the Blues and their travelling support, who will be buoyed by Atletico Madrid’s failure to win at home to FK Qarabag – meaning Chelsea still have a four-point lead over the Spanish giants with two group games remaining.
The team’s performance will concern Antonio Conte, however, who will turn his thoughts to a huge Premier League game on Sunday against Manchester United, whilst Roma line up against Fiorentina in Serie A, looking to continue their fine form.