Chelsea and Roma share spoils in six-goal thriller
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea and AS Roma served up a rip-roaring 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday as both clubs stayed firmly on course for a place in the last 16 of the Champions League.
An enthralling contest saw Edin Dzeko score twice as Roma stormed back from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 with 20 minutes remaining, only for Eden Hazard to salvage a point for Group C leaders Chelsea with a rare header.
The goal flow began in the 11th minute when David Luiz's curler put Chelsea ahead and when Hazard doubled the home side's advantage in the 35th it looked like being a routine night for Antonio Conte's side.
Aleksandar Kolarov fired Roma back into contention before the interval though and Dzeko's double in the space of six minutes, the first a scorching volley, looked to have earned Roma only their second win in 16 attempts on English soil.
Hazard's equaliser kept Chelsea top with seven points from three games with Roma on five -- three ahead of Atletico Madrid who were surprisingly held to a 0-0 draw by Qarabag.
"It is a good result for both teams but when you are 2-0 up at home you must win the game," Hazard said.
"Now we have to play in Rome but we will try to win the game. After two defeats it's not easy to bounce back."
Roma arrived in west London with a dismal record away to English clubs but facing a Chelsea side reeling from successive Premier League defeats.
Eusebio Di Francesco's side must have been fearing another fruitless trip as Chelsea clinically moved 2-0 ahead despite spending much of the first half on the back foot.
The hosts went ahead when Luiz, playing in central midfield in place of the injured N'Golo Kante, produced a piece of Brazilian magic, curling a right-footer from 25 metres past Roma keeper Alisson Becker.
A slick Roma side asked plenty of questions of Chelsea's defence though and both Radja Nainggolan and Diego Perotti should have done better with gilt-edged chances.
Those misses looked terminal for Roma's hopes when Chelsea doubled their lead with devastating counter-attack in the 36th minute. Alvaro Morata and Hazard combined before Morata's cross spun off a Roma defender and into the path of Hazard who rammed home his side's second.
Four minutes later Chelsea's defence switched off allowing Kolarov to burst into the area and his shot nicked off Andreas Christensen on its way past Thibaut Courtois and into the net.
Roma began the second half full of purpose and Dzeko looked poised to tap-in Kolarov's low cut back only to see the ball diverted off his toes by the alert Courtois.
A disgruntled Luiz was replaced by Pedro but Roma had taken a stranglehold and levelled in stunning fashion as Dzeko belted an unstoppable left-foot volley beyond Courtois.
Six minutes later Dzeko took his tally for the season to 12 in all competitions for club and country, the Bosnian hitman left unmarked to head in Kolarov's free kick.
Roma's lead lasted only four minutes though as Hazard glanced in Pedro's cross with a superb header.
There was still time for both sides to win a classic encounter, the best falling to Dzeko who inexplicably headed wide from point blank range.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)