Arsenal can now kiss goodbye to conquering Europe and Champions League winners & losers

Edin Dzeko netted his first ever goals against Chelsea, while the struggles of Dortmund, Atletico and Napoli are bad news for Arsenal


Edin Dzeko Roma Chelsea

“When I was at Manchester City,” Edin Dzeko mused after Roma’s 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, “I never scored against Chelsea, but I made up for that tonight.” And how!

Dzeko struck twice in what was his 10th outing against the Blues, levelling the game with a thumping, first-time volley from a wonderful pass from deep from Federico Fazio before then heading the visitors into a 3-2 lead.

Eden Hazard salvaged a barely deserved draw for Chelsea, who looked like the away side all evening, with just 40 per cent of the ball, and the man of the match award went to the brilliant Belgian. But the night still belonged to Roma’s No.9, who was proclaimed “King Dzeko” by both Tuttosport and the Corriere dello Sport on Thursday morning.

At 31, he is in the best form his career, as underlined by his recent nomination for this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Dzeko’s double in west London has taken his Roma goals tally to 59 in just 100 games, a record made all the more remarkable given he struggled in his first season after moving to the Stadio Olimpico from Manchester City in the summer of 2015, scoring just 10 times in his first 39 appearances for the Giallorossi.

That makes it 49 goals in his past 61 appearances, which underlines just why Francesco Totti saw so little game time before his retirement.

The King is dead, Long live the King!

Mark Doyle


Cenk Tosun Besiktas Monaco

Cenk Tosun told Goal in September, “The best feeling in the world is when you see the ball hit the net. If you’re a striker, you step on the field to taste that feeling.” The Besiktas forward has certainly developed an insatiable appetite for Champions League goals over the past year.

Tosun won the tournament’s goal of the season award for his sensational scissor-kick against Benfica last November, while he kicked off the current competition by bagging the best goal of Matchday 1 – a thunderous strike from distance in a surprise 3-1 victory at Porto.

The Turkey international netted again on Tuesday, twice in fact, to earn Besiktas an impressive come-from-behind win at Monaco that means his side have a maximum nine points after three rounds of action.

“I keep training hard, both with the team and after the sessions,” the in-form Tosun said after the win at the Stade Louis II. “I want to improve what I have been doing wrong and what I could do better.”

Having been expected to finish bottom of a competitive, well-balanced group that also features RB Leipzig, Besiktas have now won three Champions League group games on the bounce for the first time in their history to leave them just one win away from a maiden appearance in the knockout stage.

Tonsun will be key to their hopes of progression because while Pepe, Ryan Babel, Alvaro Negredo and Ricardo Quaresma may be the most famous names in Senol Gunes’ squad, it is the humble but hungry centre-forward who adds real bite to the Besiktas attack.

Mark Doyle


Christian Pulisic Borussia Dortmund

It’s not been a great few days for Borussia Dortmund boss Peter Bosz. After watching his side’s unbeaten start to the Bundesliga season come to an end at home to RB Leipzig on Saturday, the Dutchman then had to endure a dismal 1-1 draw at APOEL on Tuesday that has left BVB’s Champions League hopes in tatters.

Indeed, further bad news had arrived at full-time, when Bosz was informed moments before his post-match interview that the other game in Group H, between Real Madrid and Tottenham, had also finished level. “That 1-1 draw in Spain isn’t good for us either,” he lamented. “It wouldn’t have been good even if we’d won here.”

He wasn’t wrong there: BVB’s failure to win in Cyprus leaves them needing a minor miracle to qualify for the last 16. As it stands, Dortmund sit third in Group H, six points behind both Spurs and Madrid. The Bundesliga leaders should at least defeat APOEL at home to boost their qualification hopes but even then, they would still need to defeat Tottenham at home at Real in the Bernabeu just to have a chance of progressing.

In reality, BVB are already out and, in truth, only have themselves to blame after managing just one goal, and four shots on target (the same number as APOEL), in a game in which they had 72.6 per cent possession. Admittedly, they came close to nicking a late winner, with both Shinji Kagawa and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang striking the woodwork in the dying minutes.

However, even a bemused Bosz admitted that his side did not warrant all three points: “We actually got weaker the longer the game went on.” He will now be hoping Dortmund’s season doesn’t follow a similar course.

Mark Doyle


Antoine Griezmann Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid have been Champions League finalists in two of the last four seasons but based on this week’s evidence, they will be lucky to even escape the group stage this time around. Wednesday’s goalless draw in Qarabag serves as the worst result of Diego Simeone’s brilliant reign at Atletico.

Their rookie opponents had never even gained a point in the Champions League in their history and had been humiliated 6-0 by Chelsea on matchday one.

But Atletico were slow and predictable throughout the match and barely created a single chance in the second half, even when the Azerbaijanis were reduced to 10 men with 15 minutes to go. In fact, Qarabag even threatened to score on the counter-attack on a number of occasions.

Most worrying of all, though, Atletico now find themselves with a lot of work to do to qualify. With just two points from three games, they find themselves six points behind leaders Chelsea and three points shy of second-placed Roma.

Carlo Garganese


Arsenal Arsene Wenger

Arsenal’s diastrous failure to qualify for this season’s Champions League did have one silver lining: the opportunity for Arsene Wenger to win the first European trophy of his career and a first for Arsenal since their Cup Winners’ Cup win over Parma in 1994.

When the draw for the Europa League group stages was made, there were few teams who would have frightened Wenger. Indeed, their strongest rivals right now are Roberto Mancini’s Zenit St Petersburg, crisis-hit AC Milan and the likes of Villarreal, Lazio and Marseille.

However, this week’s Champions League results mean that the knockout phase of the Europa League is going to get a whole lot tougher for Arsenal because it’s not only the aforementioned Atletico and Dortmund who are struggling.

Serial Europa League winners Sevilla slipped from top to third in Group E after a shocking 5-1 loss at Spartak Moscow, while even an excellent Napoli side are now third-favourites to make it out of Group F after losing two of their opening three fixtures.

Should Sevilla, Atletico and the league leaders in both Germany and Italy drop down into the Europa League, it could end Arsenal’s chances of salvaging anything from what could be another miserable season in north London.

Carlo Garganese


Dzeko, Pjanic or David Luiz? Vote for the UEFA Champions League Goal of the Week, presented by Nissan!

Edin Dzeko’s stunning volley versus Cheslea has been nominated for the UEFA Champions League Goal of the Week, presented by Nissan!

The Roma man’s superb finish arrived during his side’s thrilling 3-3 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, in a game that also saw David Luiz earn a nod for matchday three’s prize for his flashed curling finish.

Dzeko and Luiz will also have to beat out competition from Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic, who once again proved himself one of the best free-kick takers on the continent as he lifted his shot effortlessly over the wall in his side’s 2-1 defeat of Sporting.

Spartak Moscow’s Denis Glushakov is also up for the gong, thanks to a splendidly controlled volley during his side’s 5-1 demolition of Sevilla.

Basel’s Taulant Xhaka rounds out the nominations with a fine run and smart finish that helped secure the Swiss side a comfortable victory at CSKA Moscow.

Click here to watch the contenders and vote for the UEFA Champions League Goal of the Week, presented by Nissan!


‘You must win’ – Hazard frustrated with Chelsea showing after second-half collapse

Eden Hazard admitted that his Chelsea side should have claimed a win over Roma after taking a two-goal lead over the Italian side. 

Edin Dzeko inspired his side to a strong comeback, with the Serie A outfit even taking the lead in the second half before Hazard netted to help the Blues claim a point.

After the match the 26-year-old admitted that the outcome was positive for both sides, but was less than impressed with how well his side played in a match they should have won, telling BT Sport: “It’s a good game to play in and a good result for both teams.

“We should have won it. After being 2-0 up at half-time you must win, but they are good players. Dzeko is a fantastic striker.

“We gave everything to the end of the game. One point is enough, after two defeats it’s not easy to bounce back.”

Hazard had scored just one goal in his previous 14 games in all competitions for Chelsea, but he said that the importance of seeing his name on the scoresheet was outweighed by the team’s performance.

Chelsea came back from 1-0 down to beat Atletico 2-1 at Estadio Wanda Metroplitano in September, and Hazard said that game satisfied him more.

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“It’s good to score, but for me scoring is not important – we played better in Madrid and I prefer this kind of game,” he said.

Chelsea face Watford, Everton and Bournemouth in the Premier League before they travel to Rome at the end of October, when Hazard hopes the Blues will take a significant step towards qualification from Champions League Group C.

“At least we stay first in the group and we go there [to Roma] to win the game,” he said. “It won’t be easy in Roma but we go there to win because we want to finish the job early.”


Chelsea 3 Roma 3: Hazard brace rescues Conte’s men after Dzeko double

Eden Hazard and Edin Dzeko scored two goals each as Chelsea and Roma played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Eden Hazard scored his first goals of the season to rescue Chelsea as Antonio Conte’s men were held to a dramatic 3-3 draw by Roma in the Champions League.

Edin Dzeko had looked set to enjoy one of the most memorable nights of his career after he scored twice – including one of the all-time great Champions League goals – to help Roma rally from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 with 20 minutes remaining.

However, Hazard spoiled the party for the Italians with an equaliser five minutes later in the Group C clash in London on Wednesday.

Going into the game on the back of two Premier League consecutive defeats, Chelsea quickly allayed any nerves around Stamford Bridge when David Luiz guided a sweetly struck shot into the net after 11 minutes and Hazard doubled their lead, turning an Alvaro Morata pass into the net eight minutes before half-time.

But Roma were never out of the contest and Aleksandar Kolarov’s goal five minutes prior to the break gave them hope of a second-half reprisal that came true when Dzeko scored a stunning volley and a header to give them the lead.

The contest swung from end to end throughout and even at 3-3 there were numerous chances for both sides to find a winner, but a stalemate seemed fitting after Hazard and Dzeko matched each other goal for goal and inspired their sides in equal measure.

Returning from injury, Morata fired straight into the arms of goalkeeper Alisson when Hazard played him through on goal in the fifth minute, but the visitors refused to sit back and Diego Perotti went on a mazy dribble through Chelsea’s defence three minutes later.

Errors began to creep into Roma’s defensive play and after his ball into the box for Morata was blocked by Juan Jesus, David Luiz ran onto the rebound and stroked it beyond Alisson into the bottom right corner of the net from 20 yards.

Just as Roma began to make gains in midfield, Chelsea broke at the other end and Morata’s deflected pass looped over to the far post where Hazard was on hand to tuck the ball into the net from close range.

But three minutes later Kolarov, who picked up the ball on the left wing, rounded Cesar Azpilicueta and rattled in a shot that hit the top of the net via a slight touch by Andreas Christensen.

In the second half, Dzeko came within a whisker of turning a Kolarov cross into the net as it flashed past his toes inside the six-yard box.

Perotti then curled a shot into Thibaut Courtois’ hands with half an hour left to play, before a moment of brilliance changed the complexion of the game.

Federico Fazio jogged over the half-way line and played a long, chipped pass forward and Dzeko watched it all the way into the box before meeting it with his boot laces and volleying an unstoppable shot over the head of Courtois.

Chelsea had barely reacted to the blow when Dzeko scored again six minutes later, applying a glancing header to Kolarov’s free-kick to take it past Courtois and into the far corner of the net from six yards out.

If Roma head coach Eusebio Di Francesco was delighted with that, he will have been equally appalled by the simple nature of Hazard’s equaliser.

The Belgian forward was left unmarked when second-half substitute Pedro sent over a routine cross, and Hazard’s header found the bottom left corner of the net with accuracy, prompting a scramble for chances in the last 15 minutes but neither side could force a winner.

Key Opta facts:

– Roma have never won an away game against English opposition in the Champions League (D3 L6).
– Eden Hazard scored his first Champions League goals since March 11th 2015 versus PSG – 952 days ago.
– Hazard’s two goals were more than he had managed in his previous 14 games in all competitions for Chelsea (1).
– This is the first time that a team managed by Antonio Conte has conceded three goals in a Champions League game.
– Chelsea have scored four goals from outside the box in the Champions League this season, more than any other team.
– Roma have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 23 away games in the Champions League.


‘The insults hurt the most’ – Dzeko fires back at criticism

Edin Dzeko has admitted he gets hurt by claims he does not work hard enough and dismissed the idea as “a joke”.

The Roma striker topped the Serie A goal chart last season with 29 and has started the new campaign in excellent form, scoring seven in as many games in the league.

However, the 31-year-old is surprised that he still faces regular criticism from fans over a perceived lack of interest during games and feels social media makes it easy for people to forget footballers are human.

“I don’t run? I don’t give my best? Come on! That is a joke,” he said in an interview with The Guardian.

“I can guarantee that no one in the stands or in front of the TV wants us to win games more than I do! Any match, I don’t care who we play against or what we play for, I just want to score a goal or my team to score a goal so that we win the match. Every match I give my very best. Every single match.

“I know people will criticise when you play bad; that is part of this job and I am fine with that. That is not a problem. The problem is the insults. That is what hurts the most. This is the time of social media and everyone has a chance to publicly say what they think. No matter how illogical or stupid it is. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, everyone is entitled to insult you because you did not score or play well.

“People think that they care more than I do – but that is simply not true.

“It’s never easy to read headlines like that, to hear fans shouting things like that. You know that you are better than that, that you can play much better, but sometimes it is difficult to turn things around. What people do not see is that you are a human being too and that you have problems like everyone else.

“I would lie if I tell you that I don’t listen or read what people say. I do. I ignore the insults and irrational things but I like to watch and read what educated football people have to say, people who analyse things, especially in Italy. They know football, they try to do it in depth and as someone involved in the game I do enjoy some articles or programmes.”

Edin Dzeko Roma

Edin Dzeko, Inter vs. Roma

After finishing second to Juventus in Serie A last season, Roma are already nine points off the pace of leaders Napoli, while they sit second in their Champions League group ahead of Wednesday’s game against Chelsea.

Dzeko 6/4 to score v Chelsea

The team are feeling the pressure to improve and challenge for titles from their passionate fans and the ex-Manchester City attacker enjoys the ambition within the city and the club.

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“Nothing compares to Rome. Nothing,” he added. “People there are crazy about football, in a positive way. The expectations were big in Germany, bigger in England, but nothing even close to Rome. It’s a special city, with a special bond with a club and people adore it.

“In Manchester I could go out for a dinner or for a walk; people would stop me and politely ask for a photo from time to time. In Rome it is impossible for me to walk normally in the city. They are passionate, love their club and their players and the attention is enormous. And that kind of attention and passion raises expectations and pressure. But I am not saying this in a negative way.

“I love how things work there, because passion and love is what football is supposed to be about.”