Champions League takeaways: Dzeko, Roma turn Group C on its head

Roma's Edin Dzeko, second from right, celebrates with his teammates after scoring during the Champions League group C soccer match between Chelsea and Roma at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017. (Frank Augstein/AP)

Matchday 3 of the UEFA Champions League came to an end on Wednesday, with a few stunning results capping off some wild mid-week action.

Group C saw the most surprises as Roma overcame a 2-0 deficit to grab a point from Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. In Azerbaijan, Atletico Madrid had to settle for a 0-0 draw versus Qarabag. Atleti has accumulated two points from three games and now face an uphill battle in their final three matches.

Here are three thoughts from Wednesday’s games.

Roma shows guile in London

Chelsea was on a roll in the first half. Their 3-5- formation was working wonders with Tiemoue Bakayoko pushing up to mark Radja Nainggolan, plus Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard were devastating on the counter. The Blues led 2-1 at halftime after an Aleksandar Kolarov strike trimmed the two-goal advantage.

Enter Edin Dzeko. Roma’s talisman outran Andreas Christensen and volleyed a long ball from Federico Fazio into the roof of the goal. Dzeko popped up again on a set piece to grab the lead for the Giallorossi. Eventually, Hazard completed a brace of his own to salvage a 3-3 draw for Chelsea.

However, credit must be given to the Italians for fighting back and managing to create some quality chances by exposing Chelsea’s lack of cover on the flanks. Dzeko also caused a ruckus all over the pitch and now Roma has a legitimate chance at qualifying for the round of 16.

Misfortune for Mile Svilar vs. Man United

Eighteen-year-old Benfica Mile Svilar was handed his Champions League debut on Wednesday against Manchester United. The Belgian teenager – signed from Anderlecht in late August – became the youngest goalkeeper to start in the competition, surpassing Iker Casillas’ record.

However, he was culpable for the lone goal in United’s 1-0 victory. Marcus Rashford had a free kick from about 40 yards out and decided to shoot directly at goal. Svilar caught the ball, but took a few steps back and crossed his own line.

It was an unfortunate moment for the youngster because he was solid when called upon. United only mustered five shots on target and Svilar made every save – including the Rashford free kick – but a momentary lapse ended up costing the Portuguese side.

Atletico in trouble?

With Chelsea and Roma squaring off, Atletico Madrid had a tremendous chance to regain some lost ground against Qarabag. Atletico actually drew 0-0 with Astana of Kazakhstan in the group stage two years prior. So, another scoreless tie in Azerbaijan could be forgiven, but this is not an anomaly for Diego Simeone’s side.

The transfer ban obviously affected the team as the squad could have used bolstering up front. However, Simeone has not been able to find the right partner for forward Antoine Griezmann, who was isolated again. Kevin Gameiro proved ineffective, Angel Correa has shown promise, and they linked up well over the weekend in the 1-1 draw with Barcelona. However, the partnership still appears to be a mismatch.

Simeone has given opportunities to younger players such as Correa and Thomas Partey, but he does not appear to know what his best 11 is as of yet. Part of that has to do with the youngsters gaining some chemistry and consistency with the increased minutes, but Simeone must figure out his ideal lineup.

Perhaps the reinforcements in January will provide a boost for Atletico. However, Atleti must defeat Qarabag and Roma in the second half of the group stage to have a fighting chance to reach the knockout stage.


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