Magnificent El Shaarawy a 9/10 in Roma's runaway win against Chelsea
Stephan El Shaarawy carried on the birthday celebrations from the weekend by scoring a beautiful brace that saw Roma cruise past Chelsea, who had a Halloween horror show, and put one foot in the knockout stages of the Champions League, banging three past the Premier League champions for the second time in a fortnight while this time conceding very little at the other end.
The fantastic "Pharaoh" brought a raucous Stadio Olimpico to their feet with Roma's fastest ever Champions League goal, crashing home Edin Dzeko's flick on with less than a minute on the clock, before doubling the hosts lead by pouncing on a schoolboy mistake from former Roma man Antonio Rudiger -- who inexplicably let Radja Nainggolan's raking pass run past him -- and flicked past Thibaut Courtois. El Shaarawy's second came just a minute after he missed another golden opportunity after being put through by the excellent Dzeko, and a hat trick would have been fair reward for the Italian international's sumptuous performance, which has taken Roma top of Group C.
Roma's third, another superb strike from Diego Perotti (his first decent shot of the season) after a neat dribble inside from the left flank, was simply the cherry on a delicious cake for Eusebio Di Francesco's team, who have now kept four clean sheets on the bounce and look incredibly tough to beat. Roma are now five clear of third-place Atletico Madrid and must be a shoe-in for qualification now. On the basis of Tuesday night, how far could this team go?
Beyond the three goals, two of which on another day could have finished in row ZZ and the other down to a terrible defensive error, what struck was the way Roma held their shape and never really allowed Chelsea a sniff. Federico Fazio was excellent as usual, but even Juan Jesus, once a laughing stock, was impressive, putting in a couple of timely blocks on fizzing crosses and helping Fazio to snuff out Alvaro Morata. Roma have their structure down, and it doesn't seem to matter who's playing -- they're rugged and difficult to break down. It's been a long time since anyone could say that.
A couple of silly individual errors in the first half, the worst a poor clearance from Aleksandar Kolarov that ricocheted into the path of Morata, almost cost Roma an equaliser when they were firmly on top and dealing with Chelsea comfortably. That's it.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- The system never changes really, so it's not like there was a tactical master plan that felled Chelsea, but Di Francesco's players are so well drilled that any team would find it hard to break them down. The coach obviously picked out Cesc Fabregas as a player to target, and Kevin Strootman went after the Spaniard with relish, but the whole midfield unit functioned perfectly, even with Daniele De Rossi a touch below par.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 7 -- Always on hand to deal with the little that Chelsea offered.
DF Alessandro Florenzi, 9 -- An absolute terrier on the right flank. Dealt brilliantly with Eden Hazard.
DF Federico Fazio, 8 -- Imperious at the back as usual. Kept Morata under lock and key and directed the backline.
DF Juan Jesus, 6 -- A few sloppy moments early on shouldn't take away from what was another sound display.
DF Aleksandar Kolarov, 6 -- Very lucky not to hand Chelsea an equaliser with a sloppy clearance.
MF Radja Nainggolan, 7 -- His raking ball led to El Shaarawy's goal, even if it should have been dealt with by David Luiz. Best display in weeks.
MF Daniele De Rossi, 6 -- Probably Roma's weakest player on the night, but given how good everyone was, that's hardly an insult.
MF Kevin Strootman, 8 -- Absolutely dominated Fabregas and made sure that neither the Spaniard nor Tiemoue Bakayoko got a foothold in the game.
FW Stephan El Shaarawy, 9 -- Set Roma up with his second wonder goal in a week and sealed the result with a real striker's finish.
FW Edin Dzeko, 7 -- Set up El Shaarawy with a proper striker's flick on and bustled about up front all night.
FW Diego Perotti, 8 -- His absolutely wonderful goal sealed a fully deserved three points, and was the just reward for a superb performance.
FW Gerson, NR -- Did a solid job as Roma closed up shop at the end.
DF Kostas Manolas, NR -- Could have made the night all the more sweeter if he'd buried his free header.
MF Lorenzo Pellegrini, NR -- A neat little run out.
Terry is based in Rome and is ESPN FC's AS Roma blogger. Twitter: @T_Daley