After beating Qarabag and Atletico Madrid in their first two fixtures, the Blues were seeking their third win on the trot and their hopes of a home win were bolstered by the return of striker Alvaro Morata to the starting XI.
Morata, the club’s record signing, had injured his hamstring in the 1-0 defeat against Manchester City in September and had not played since. He led the line for Chelsea along with winger Eden Hazard in a 3-5-2 formation.
Roma, who have made a middling start to their Serie A campaign, were unbeaten in Europe heading into Wednesday’s clash.
Chelsea took the lead via a scorcher from David Luiz in the 11th minute itself and Hazard would double the lead in the 37th minute as the home side threatened to run away with the match.
However, the Giallorossi were always a threat on the counter and made Chelsea pay for switching off after scoring. Fullback Aleksandar Kolarov, formerly of Manchester City, conjured a special goal to get Roma back in the tie.
As referee Damir Skomina sounded the half-time whistle, Chelsea had a slender lead but Roma had the momentum and were the dominant side in the opening exchanges of the second-half.
Kolarov flashed a cross across the post which eluded all his teammates thanks to Thibaut Courtois’ outstretched foot but Roma weren’t to be denied for long.
Centre-back Federico Fazio saw Edin Dzeko peeling off Andreas Christensen and floated in a long-ball towards him and the Bosnian sent in a sumptuous volley to equalise proceedings in the 64th minute.
Dzeko, another former Manchester City player, then would double his tally after his glancing header from a Kolarov free-kick found the back of the net.
Hazard, so often Chelsea’s shining light, saved their blushes with a well-directed header five minutes later to preserve the Blues’ unbeaten start.
In the other Group C game on the night, Atletico Madrid were held to a 0-0 draw by 10-man Qarabag FK. At the halfway stage, Chelsea top the group with seven points, followed by Roma who have five and Atletico are in third place with two.
As a result, Roma and Chelsea are now favourites to progress to the knockout stages but with everyone set to play each other once, the group is still open.