Eden Hazard struck his second of the night to secure a point on Tuesday evening as Chelsea came from behind to draw with Roma.
Having been 2-0 up then 2-3 down, Hazard finished a good move as the ball was worked to the right of the area, and he found space to the side of the Roma back line to draw us level.
It had been a much-improved performance from Chelsea in comparison to Saturdays showing at Palace. Conte switched shape this time, going with 3-5-2 from the off. This meant Luiz being deployed in midfield alongside Fabregas and Bakayoko. Morata returned up top alongside Hazard, While Christensen came into the back three in place of Luiz. Zappacosta started, replacing the injured Moses at right back.
It was a high intensity encounter. Roma provided a stiff test here, performing better than in their defeat to Serie A leaders Napoli at the weekend. Strootman returned to their midfield, and performed admirably, along with Nainggolan who was as tenacious as ever. Roma took control early on, in a 4-3-3 shape they increasingly stretched our midfield. Full backs Peres and Kolarov pushing on initially forced Fabregas and Bakayoko to come out wide to pick them up, as was the case in the away win against Atletico. But unlike that match, Roma had an additional central midfielder, and quick movement of the ball back inside often left us struggling to cover all options in the middle.
Chelsea were still a threat though, and Morata had the first real chance of the match. He and Hazard counter attacked, running at the Roma backline, Hazard fed Morata as they reached the opposition box, but his shot was well saved by Allison.
Shortly after Perotti fired over at the other end, cutting through the left-hand channel to create the chance. This largely came about as the Roma left winger was now practically being man-marked by Azpilicueta. The attentions of Zappacosta were now diverted to the overlapping Kolarov. This was an attempt to stop our midfield three being stretched, it was a quick fix, but Roma seemed to work around it well, and we would need to be careful not to isolate the back three as at Palace on Saturday.
Luiz made his mark from midfield soon after this chance, in an already high tempo affair. Attempting to thread a pass through into the Roma penalty area, the ball was blocked back into his path, and as he ran onto it, he swept it first time with his right foot into the bottom corner. The curl and pace too much for Alisson.
Back to the other end, and Nainggolan was played in down the right-hand side of the back three, Courtois blocking his effort at the near post. This time the chance came as Roma were able to find their ‘spare’ midfielder in space, isolating Cahill on the opposite side this time.
An interesting tactical battle was developing in an already enthralling encounter. Now a combination of our wing backs, (Zappacosta and Alonso) and our midfielders were marking the advancing Roma full backs as circumstances dictated. The Roma wingers were then marked by our centre backs if the latter tactic was employed, the wing backs doing the duty if it was the former. Either way Roma were finding men in dangerous areas.
Somewhat against the run of play we went two-nil ahead. Hazard won the ball in midfield, and played in Morata, his deflected shot fell for the on-rushing Hazard, who despatched to double the lead.
Three minutes later, and only five before half-time, Roma struck back. Kolorov had advanced forward, both Zappacosta and Azpilicueta were in attendance, but similar to Zaha’s goal on Saturday, neither managed to prevent the run and shot, subsequently deflecting over Courtois and into the net.
Roma continued to look impressive in the second half and threatened early, but Chelsea were by no means playing badly, it just seemed difficult to cover all avenues in the current formation. Conte obviously felt the same, and with thirty-three minutes remaining, Luiz was withdrawn, Pedro replacing him. With the Spaniards entry came a change to 3-4-3. As at Palace on Saturday, this seemed to have an instant impact. We looked to have better shape defensively, our wingers (now Hazard and Pedro) could now stay wide to counter the threat of Kolorov and Peres down the flanks, and our central pairing of Bakayoko and Fabregas could remain there, ably supported by Azpilicueta or Cahill coming out of the backline if required.
Pedro found Morata round the back, he beat Allison the ball but could not turn his shot on target. Roma soon levelled with a world class strike from Edin Dzeko. Fazio played him in over the top of our backline, and as he watched the ball over his shoulder, he fired first time on the volley with his left foot over Courtois to tie the match.
Roma now on top, were finding Strootman and Nianggolan in the hole between the lines of midfield and defence now, and these two combined to play the ball wide where a dangerous low cross was turned away by Courtois. Not long after levelling they went ahead. A debateable free kick was whipped in from the left side, Dzeko emphatically despatched his header and Chelsea were now behind.
Chelsea showed that they still had fighting spirit, and a nice move in which the ball was worked across the pitch and back again, finished with Pedro crossing to Hazard who headed in.
Withdrawn five minutes later as he was now negating to track back, Willian replaced him. Dzeko had another headed chance, but put it wide this time. Chelsea had a clear plan to get the ball wide quickly in the changed shape, and stuck to the plan. Despite shipping three, Christensen was impressive at the heart of the defence, covering his partners well.
One point each was without doubt a fair result, and a good one for both sides after Atletico had only recorded a draw away at Qarabag earlier in the evening. Chelsea now top the group by two points from Roma, who are three clear of third placed Atletico. We travel to the Stadio Olimpico for the return match next. After this entertaining encounter, it is one to be looked forward to.
Chelsea (3-5-2): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill (c); Zappacosta (Rudiger 77), Fabregas, David Luiz (Pedro 57), Bakayoko, Alonso; Hazard (Willian 80), Morata.
Unused subs Caballero, Kenedy, Scott, Batshuayi.
Scorers David Luiz 11, Hazard 37, 75.
Booked Bakayoko 69
Roma (4-3-3): Becker; Peres, Fazio, Jesus, Kolarov; Nainggolan (c), Gonalans, Strootman (Florenzi 83), Gerson (Pellegrini 73), Dzeko, Perotti (El Shaarawy 88).
Unused subs Skorupski, Moreno, De Rossi, Under.
Scorers Kolarov 40, Dzeko 64, 70.