Chelsea FC strengthened their hold on Group A when a header from John Terry 13 minutes from time finally broke the resistance of an AS Roma side who had battled hard and intelligently to keep the Blues at bay.
Terry rose to guide in Frank Lampard's corner just when it seemed Chelsea might have to settle for a point. There were precious few clear-cut chances in the game, with the visitors closing down the spaces and defending well every time the ball came in from the flanks. Roma remain on three points – four behind Chelsea ahead of the return fixture in a fortnight – but will take comfort from a performance that was a considerable improvement after a run of poor results in Serie A.
Flicks and tricks
Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari had predicted that spectators would be treated to a "beautiful" match and the early stages bore that out as both teams passed the ball around with purpose and accuracy, every player eager to get involved. Francesco Totti was prominent for the Giallorossi with his control and eye-catching flicks while there was further evidence of the close rapport enjoyed by Lampard and Deco and the threat it poses to the opposition. Lampard, loitering in that area just behind the attack where he has plundered so many goals, brought down a bouncing ball and put a volley on target though it barely caused Doni to stretch.
Almost immediately Totti had a shooting chance at the other end but from distance he watched it slip tamely wide. Roma coach Luciano Spalletti had demanded a 'roll your sleeves up' work ethic following Sunday's 4-0 defeat by FC Internazionale Milano, and his side were responding, with the defensive axis of Philippe Mexès and Christian Panucci appearing particularly solid. After 20 minutes Mirko Vučinić found Totti and then made a forward run into the danger zone, the return pass from the Roma captain only narrowly missing its target. For Chelsea, John Mikel Obi's strong surge was stopped illegally by Mexès. Deco rolled the free-kick to Lampard and a searing shot scraped the frame of the goal on its way into the crowd.
Scolari took off Florent Malouda at the interval with Juliano Belletti coming on, yet still his team failed to penetrate a stubborn visiting rearguard with Roma making life difficult with the bodies they put behind the ball. Belletti had scored with a thunderous long-range strike at the weekend and the home fans were imploring him to try his luck again. The Brazilian did so but the attempt travelled harmlessly wide. When Lampard launched a set-piece from the right, the opening goal appeared imminent as Salomon Kalou was allowed a free header, but Doni did well to repel it and Roma breathed a sigh of relief. The keeper could do nothing to keep out the winner, though, as Terry leapt to glance Lampard's left-wing corner into the net and move Chelsea ever closer to the last 16.