Champions League: Roma, Chelsea trade blows, goalkeeping mistake saves Manchester United

Edin Dzeko equalized with a stunning volley, then put Roma ahead with a header, but the match at Chelsea ended 3-3. (Getty)

We are midway through the 2017 Champions League group stage, and no team has had a more eventful opening three games than Chelsea.

The Blues came from behind to beat Atletico with literally the last kick of their Matchday 2 tie in Madrid. But Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, it was their turn to cough up a lead. Or rather, it was Roma’s turn to mount a stunning comeback.

Ex-Manchester City duo Aleksandar Kolarov and Edin Dzeko combined to erase a 2-0 deficit and propel Roma into a 3-2 lead with 20 minutes remaining. Dzeko’s double comprised a flying left-footed volley and savvy header that put Roma in front. But five minutes later, Eden Hazard ensured the spoils would be shared. He flicked a header of his own past Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson to cap a wild 3-3 draw in London.

It’s there that we’ll begin our Wednesday Champions League recap. It was the game of the day. And it claimed that title largely thanks to the visitors, not the hosts.

Chelsea, which entered on a run of two consecutive losses, couldn’t sort itself out for much of the evening. David Luiz started in midfield alongside Tiemoue Bakayoko and Cesc Fabregas, with Alvaro Morata and Hazard somewhat isolated up top. Roma, on the other hand, was flowing. The ball was zipping around Stamford Bridge. The Italians were undoubtedly the better team.

But Luiz, as enigmatic as ever, stepped up to curl a beautiful 25-yard shot past Alisson to put Chelsea in front:

With Roma still seemingly in the ascendancy, those isolated front two then struck against the run of play again. They capitalized on a Roma giveaway, and then a looping deflection to Hazard at the far post:

Roma had to have felt hard done by. But its players wasted little time with head-hanging. Minutes later, Kolarov skipped past a Chelsea defender and stung a deflected shot past Thibaut Courtois to pull a goal back before halftime.

Dzeko’s majestic volley leveled the game at 2-2 after the break. It’s a legitimate contender for goal of the competition. And it was just reward for Roma’s superiority.

The Bosnian forward then snuck in between Chelsea defenders on a set piece. Kolarov’s wicked left foot provided exquisite service, and Dzeko nodded home the Serb’s whipped cross to complete Roma’s improbable comeback.

But Hazard had the final say:

The result kept Chelsea and Roma in the top two spots in the group. That’s because earlier in the day, Atletico Madrid settled for a 0-0 draw against FK Qarabag in Azerbaijan. The Spanish side is winless through three games, and will likely have to beat at least one of Roma or Chelsea on the final two matchdays to make up for lost points.

Elsewhere in Europe on Wednesday…

Manchester United saved by an 18-year-old’s error

With an hour gone and goals absent from Manchester United’s toughest match of the group stage, at Benfica, something out of the ordinary was always going to be necessary to break the deadlock. United lacked impetus, and lacked motivation to go in search of a winner. A draw would have suited Jose Mourinho’s side just fine, and Mourinho has never been afraid to settle for a point.

But on 64 minutes, that extraordinary moment arrived. It wasn’t a transcendent bit of skill or a 40-yard free kick. Well, actually, it was a 40-yard free kick. But Marcus Rashford’s delivery isn’t the talking point. Benfica’s 18-year-old goalkeeper, Mile Slivar, is:

Slivar had made his Benfica debut just four days earlier, in a 1-0 domestic cup win, and became the youngest goalkeeper to start a Champions League match in the history of the competition. Iker Casillas had previously held the record.

And the Belgian teenager looked to be on his way to a memorable clean sheet to mark the occasion. He had been relatively untroubled through an hour. But he took an errant step forward as Rashford approached. He raced back to corral the ball before it crossed the line, but goal-line technology confirmed that his momentum had carried him and the ball back into his own net.

United, despite a sleepy performance, held on for a third-straight Champions League win. It maintained a three-point lead atop Group A over FC Basel, which beat CSKA Moscow 2-0.

Slivar’s mistake was costly. But Benfica, which had lost its first two matches, needed three points, not one. The real failure was that of the 10 outfield players, who couldn’t find a way past a compact United and David De Gea.

For Slivar, it’s a moment to learn from, not to rue. United striker Romelu Lukaku made sure his countryman was aware of that in a touching post-match moment:

Barcelona wins despite sloppy start, Pique red

Barcelona wasn’t exactly in top form at a rain-soaked Camp Nou, with hundreds of seats in the lower levels empty. But it jumped into a first-half lead via an Olympiacos own goal:

The own goal appeared to put the game to bed. Barcelona, at home, a goal up, monopolizing the ball against an inferior opponent … what could go wrong?

Gerard Pique answered that. He was booked for a foul midway through the half. With the interval approaching, he bundled a deflected cross over the goal line with his hand. There was clear intent, even it it was just a small instinctual movement, and Pique was shown a second yellow.

Alas, it didn’t matter. Olympiacos was so inferior that, even against 10 men, it could barely get a touch of the ball. It sat in its defensive shape, reluctant to come out of its shell. It went further behind to Lionel Messi’s 100th European goal, a well-placed 61st-minute free kick:

Lucas Digne put the game well and truly to bed with a crisp left-footed strike that whistled into the bottom corner. Olympiacos pulled a goal back late with a header, but Barcelona’s win was never in doubt after Messi hit the century mark.

Juventus, meanwhile, kept pace with the Blaugrana by sneaking past Sporting CP, 2-1.

PSG’s front three dazzle, Bayern cruises

The big boys are separating themselves in Group B – and only Paris Saint-Germain’s win over Bayern Munich on Matchday 2 separates the two of them after both won on Wednesday.

PSG didn’t quite have a leisurely afternoon in Belgium. The final score, 4-0, doesn’t quite agree with the entirety of the 90 minutes. The Parisians and their counterparts, Anderlecht, shared the ball evenly. Each recorded six shots on target. Anderlecht especially held its own early on.

But Kylian Mbappe gave the Ligue 1 leaders a 1-0 advantage inside three minutes. Edinson Cavani doubled it shortly before halftime. And Neymar ensured all three of the fearsome front line got in on the act with a goal of his own in the 66th minute. Angel Di Maria then grabbed a fourth PSG goal late on.

Bayern, meanwhile, hosted Celtic, and was also 2-0 up at halftime. Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich got the first-half goals.

Mats Hummels made it three in the 51st minute, and the Bavarians strolled to a 3-0 victory.

Other scores

Juventus 2-1 Sporting CP
FK Qarabag 0-0 Atletico Madrid
CSKA Moscow 0-2 FC Basel

Tuesday’s results