EDEN HAZARD was Chelsea’s saviour as he netted twice in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Roma this evening.
The Blues surrendered a two-goal lead to go 3-2 down with 20 minutes remaining at Stamford Bridge.
But talisman Hazard popped up with a timely equaliser to earn a point for his side and see off a resilient Roma team led by former Manchester City duo Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov.
Indeed, it was the Italians who dominated the possession stats at Stamford Bridge on the night.
But Antonio Conte made his counter-attacking intentions clear by fielding a side with Luiz employed as an anchorman ahead of the usual five-man defence.
The Brazilian relished his role, going toe-to-toe with Roma enforcer Radja Nainggolan in the centre of the field while also making a number of crucial tackles and composed passes.
But Chelsea fans know Luiz has more to his game after seeing him deployed in a similar role during Rafa Benitez’s controversial reign.
And the 30-year-old reminded everyone why Gary Neville once referred to him as a ‘PlayStation footballer’ by scoring an outrageous opener from 25 yards out in the 11th minute.
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Luiz saw his own failed pass miraculously fall back to him and struck it sweetly past the Roma keeper to send Stamford Bridge into raptures.
Six of the centre-back’s last seven goals have now come from outside the box, and Antonio Conte could do worse than handing Luiz the ‘Andrea Pirlo’ role on a full-time basis.
Despite the setback, Roma continued to press hungrily and Radja Nainggolan soon forced compatriot Thibaut Courtois into making a fine save with his legs.
But it was Belgium’s main man Hazard who made the next decisive play by netting in the 37th minute.
Strike partner Morata started a glorious counter-attack with a fine interception before laying the ball off to Hazard, who carried it up the pitch in his typically silky fashion.
Hazard then passed to Morata, whose deflected shot fell straight into the path of Chelsea’s No.10.
And Hazard didn’t need to think twice as he fired home with aplomb, with Conte looking particularly relieved following Roma’s domination in the previous 15 minutes.
However, the Italians quickly delivered a sucker-punch as the Blues looked to cruise into half-time, with Kolarov’s purposeful charge and resulting shot deflecting off Andreas Christensen and past the helpless Courtois just three minutes after Hazard’s effort.
It was the least Roma deserved for their performance in the first 45, and one couldn’t help but wonder if Chelsea would capitulate just like they did against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Roma started the second half where they left off and quickly had Courtois scrambling to make a vital interception from a low and deceptively pacey cross.
Things didn’t get better for Chelsea when their midfield warrior Luiz was taken off in the 54th minute with a calf strain.
And the chances continued to pile up for Roma as they turned up the heat in west London.
Antonio Conte was certainly steaming when he was given a stern telling-off by the referee for stepping outside his boundary on the touchline.
But the attention soon turned back to the pitch as Edin Dzeko levelled on the night with a world-class volley in the 64th minute to stun Stamford Bridge into silence.
However, the night continued to get worse for Chelsea when Dzeko made contact with a fantastic free-kick from Kolarov to head Roma into the lead with 20 minutes remaining.
Yet Chelsea continued to show their threat on the counter, which resulted five minutes later in another goal from Hazard.
The Belgian was delighted to level the scores before being unceremoniously hooked for Willian, but neither side could find an ultimate breakthrough as the referee finally blew the whistle on another European classic at the Bridge.
WHAT THEY SAID
Eden Hazard: “It’s a good result for both teams but we should win. When you’re 2-0 up at home, you must win.
“They have a fantastic striker, it’s one point each so we stay first in the group. We want to finish the job early.
“We gave everything until the end. We scored one and maybe should have scored another to win.”