5 Thoughts: Roma executes perfect game plan vs. Chelsea

Roma's Stephan El Shaarawy celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the Champions League group C soccer match between Roma and Chelsea, at the Olympic stadium in Rome, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017. (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

Roma threw Group C out of whack for the second straight game after its 3-0 win over Chelsea on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.

Roma is now on top of the group with eight points, five more than Atletico Madrid with two matches remaining, leaving the 2014 and 2016 runners-up in a deep hole.

Elsewhere, Juventus and Sporting CP split points while Manchester United blanked Benfica with a bit of luck.

Here are five thoughts from Tuesday’s matches.

Roma execute picture-perfect

Roma has been anything but an attacking juggernaut in Serie A this season. Coach Eusebio Di Francesco’s side usually grabs a goal and then grinds out the result.

Yet the Giallorossi have now scored more goals against Chelsea (6) than they have in their previous five Serie A matches (5). Roma struck early through Stephan El Shaarawy’s scorcher after 40 seconds, then absorbed pressure for the remainder of the half. Once Chelsea tried to open up, the Romans took advantage and scythed through the defence.

Federico Fazio and Juan Jesus were alert for every ball launched into the penalty area. They kept touch-tight to Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata as well. Aleksandar Kolarov, Radja Nainggolan and Daniele De Rossi – who has been woeful this season – were equally brilliant when defending.

Like it did at Stamford Bridge, Roma utilized long balls and confused Chelsea’s defence. Nainggolan noticed Antonio Rudiger was out of position, so he launched a ball over the top, Rudiger reacted slowly, Cesar Azpilicueta had to respond and El Shaarawy took advantage.

Di Francesco’s plan worked to perfection and it led to the first defeat for an English side in the Champions League this season.

Atletico Madrid is still in danger

Atletico was already in trouble before Tuesday’s matches and it might be even more problematic for Atleti after the completion of Matchday 4.

Los Colchoneros drew 1-1 at home to 10-man Qarabag, leaving Atletico four points adrift of Chelsea. Once again, Atleti were beaten via a header, which is uncharacteristic for a Diego Simeone team, and could not solve goalkeeper Ibrahim Sehic.

The hosts had more than 30 shots but only found the breakthrough from a Thomas Partey screamer. Simeone better hope his side is more incisive and clinical in Rome on Nov. 22.

Mile Svilar has awful luck

Mile Svilar became the youngest goalkeeper in Champions League history when he debuted for Benfica against Manchester United on Matchday 3. United won that game 1-0 after Svilar caught Marcus Rashford’s free kick and stepped over the line while grabbing the ball.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and Svilar redeemed himself by saving a penalty from Anthony Martial in the first half. Unfortunately for the 18-year-old ‘keeper on Tuesday, Nemanja Matic fired a shot from distance, it bounced off the post, off the teenager’s back and into the net. United won 2-0.

Svilar was actually sharp during the match, making several strong reactionary saves, commanded his area well and confidently held onto any aerial ball into the box.

The teen has a very bright future, but these moments will happen. If he reacts positively to these situations, he will have the right mentality to play in this competition for many years.

Depleted Sporting unlucky not to win

Sporting CP was missing three of its regular starting defenders and midfield stalwart William Carvalho for its match against Juventus.

Despite those absences, Sporting earned a 1-1 draw at home and didn’t concede until the 82nd minute. Right-back Stefan Ristovski made several clutch interceptions and did not appear fazed by the big occasion. Gelson Martins was also brilliant and forced the rebound prior to Bruno Cesar’s goal.

Sporting is still three points adrift of Juventus and will likely miss out on the knockout stage, but at least the Portuguese did not back down.

Celtic deserved a point over Bayern

Bayern Munich did not have Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller. The former missed three Champions League matches last season and the Bavarians lost all of them. As a result, Celtic likely felt even more motivated to face the German champions at home.

Bayern barely overcame those absences as they snuck past Celtic 2-1. The Bhoys equalized on 74 minutes, but Javi Martinez restored the lead just moments later.

It was a blow to the Scots, who troubled Bayern’s defence through James Forrest and Moussa Dembele throughout the 90 minutes. If not for lapses in concentration by centre-back Dedryck Boyata and goalkeeper Craig Gordon on the opening goal, Celtic might have earned a monumental result.

Bayern appeared confused without Lewandowski and should consider themselves somewhat lucky to walk out of Glasgow with all three points.


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