It was at that moment the Blues needed someone to step up and strike a vital blow; Eden Hazard obliged. The Belgian’s deft header put Chelsea back on an equal footing. They managed to see out of the rest of contest to claim a draw they didn’t deserve, but one they will gladly take.
The Blues found themselves 2-0 up in the first half following goals from David Luiz and Hazard. In truth it wasn’t a lead they deserved and one that was quickly reduced when Aleksandar Kolarov broke into the Chelsea area and drilled a shot home.
Roma continued to dominate in the second period and equalised when Edin Džeko sumptuously volleyed home. The big Bosnian then headed Roma in front to complete a dramatic turn around.
Fortunately for Chelsea, they found a way to level the match. Pedro crossed and Hazard expertly guided the ball into the far corner with his head.
Chances came and went for both sides in the final 15 minutes, but a breathless game came to end without another goal. And here are the five things we learned from an enthralling night’s football at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea waste unexpected opportunity
It meant the Spanish side had managed to collect just two points from their opening three fixtures – a Blues victory would put them within touching distance of the knockout stages.
And having gone 2-0 up against the run of play, Chelsea should’ve ensured that was the case. They should’ve worked hard to shut down the game, instead they conceded within three minutes.
They were given the half-time break to reorganise and regroup but still couldn’t contain Roma after the restart. In the end, the Blues were grateful to claim a point.
Antonio Conte is unlikely to be happy with his side but he must take some of the blame for the poor performance. He set the Blues up in a 3-5-2 formation but Roma exploited the flanks from early on. Only when he reverted to 3-4-3 in the second half, did it look like Chelsea had balance to their game.
The draw means the Blues do hold a five-point lead over Atleti, who sit in third and still have to play Roma who are second on five points. But this was a big opportunity missed by Chelsea.
Zappacosta a capable Moses deputy
When the Italian was signed on transfer deadline day many a Chelsea fan would’ve been forgiven for having a quick Google search to find out more about the Italian wing-back.
He was something of an unknown quantity and, in truth, seven weeks on from joining the club that remains the case. He had only started two games for the Blues prior to the clash with Roma and they were both against weaker opposition.
Tonight’s game at Stamford Bridge was his first true test and Zappacosta certainly didn’t let Chelsea down. Defensively he made three clearances, one interception and one tackle.
Going forward he is direct. When the 25-year-old receives the ball, he’ll attempt to break into space and put in a cross – he produced five against the Serie A side. It may not necessarily be the most nuanced tactic but it is effective.
And with first-choice right wing-back Moses ruled out for the foreseeable future, Zappacosta will get an extended run in the side. He proved against Roma he is more than capable deputy.
Nainggolan shows Chelsea what they could’ve had
Chelsea’s pursuit of the Belgian is well know. The Blues twice attempted to sign Nainggolan – once in the summer of 2015 and then a year later – only for the now 29-year-old to turn down the club’s advances.
But the Blues hierarchy and Conte finally got to see Nainggolan on the Stamford Bridge pitch, but only as he produced a composed display in the heart of the Roma side.
Given Conte’s injury woes in midfield, the Italian wouldn’t have enjoyed watching Nainggolan shift between the defensive and midfield lines as he helped construct attack after attack.
It may have not been the Belgium international’s best display but he completed 86.1 percent of his passes, had three shots on goal, one of which went narrowly wide, and played one key pass.
His industry without the ball was also key for Roma, who pressed Chelsea’s midfield and defence efficiently throughout the game.
Luiz should remain in midfield…for now
Last season Luiz was virtually flawless. His performances in the heart of Chelsea’s back three were a big reason as to why Conte’s side clinched the Premier League title and reached the FA Cup.
However, he has been shaky during the current campaign and, with Andreas Christensen performing excellently, the Brazilian’s place in defence has come under increasing threat.
It’s why moving the 30-year-old into midfield makes sense, especially with N’Golo Kanté ruled out for the next month with a hamstring injury. Luiz has the mobility and pace required to break up opposition attacks, but is also adept at starting attacking moves with his intelligent passing and is a threat from distance.
The Brazilian proved that with a beautifully guided opener 11 minutes into the contest, and he spent the remainder of the opening 45 minutes being a nuisance. By half-time he had made five tackles, while also conceding four free-kicks. He was breaking up play, by fair means or foul, until he was forced off in the 57th minute with an injury.
Chelsea will hope it’s not serious. Their midfield is weak with Kanté, of that there is no doubt. Without him in the side to break up play the Blues instinctively drop deeper which allows opposing sides to gain the initiative.
Luiz may not be perfect, but he is the best replacement for the Frenchman Conte has.
Džeko deserves his Ballon d’Or nomination
There will have been a few eyebrows raised in England when the Bosnian’s name was included on the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or.
Many remember Džeko as the inconsistent and slightly clumsy striker who was in and out of the Manchester City side. But at Roma Džeko has blossomed into one of Europe’s most clinical strikers and he proved that to devastating effect at Stamford Bridge.
His first goal was a thing of beauty, a volley that could quite deservedly win goal of the season. His second, however, while well taken, was a product of poor Chelsea marking.
Džeko has now scored ten times in 11 games this season, adding to the 39 goals he scored during an astonishing 2016/17 campaign.
Now 31 years old, he is only getting better with age. As Chelsea and those fans who doubted his quality found out.