Chelsea salvaged a 4-4 draw after a wild affair against Ajax at Stamford Bridge in their fourth Champions League group stage fixture on Tuesday.
To say the game ebbed and flowed would be an understatement. Frank Lampard‘s Blues found themselves three goals behind with just over half-an-hour remaining, but two red cards for visiting Ajax in the same sequence of play turned the game on its head.
Jorginho, Cesar Azpilicueta and substitute Reece James scored three goals in 11 minutes to level the game, but a sensational fifth wasn’t to be after a second from Azpilicueta was ruled out for a handball after a VAR check.
Chelsea showed exceptional levels of determination to come from three goals behind and poach a draw at home, so it was quite remarkable that the home fans left frustrated that an additional two points weren’t secured.
Mateo Kovacic was again Chelsea’s standout player, and Jorginho’s calmness under pressure from the penalty spot was again exemplary.
Marcos Alonso‘s inaccuracies would’ve concerned home supporters, and he was promptly substituted at half-time after a series of woeful errors epitomised what was a frustrating half for Chelsea. Tammy Abraham also lacked his usual clinical touch in front of goal. Had that been present, Chelsea might just be celebrating one of the Champions League’s greatest comebacks.
Manager rating (out of 10)
7 — Hard to criticise Chelsea for half of the goals they conceded. Marking perhaps should’ve been tighter, but ultimately the manager’s changes worked. Reece James grabbed a deserved goal and Callum Hudson-Odoi injected some noticeable energy on the left side of the pitch.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 5 — Found himself in a bizarre situation at half-time where three goals had been conceded, despite Ajax registering only one shot on target. However, hard to blame the home goalkeeper for Ajax’s two fortuitous goals.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 5 — A sub-standard first-half performance wasn’t helped by his ball watching in the buildup to Ajax’s second goal that granted the visitors a huge momentum boost. The captain was much better in the second half and grabbed a goal which started the Chelsea fightback.
DF Kurt Zouma, 5 — Remarkable run at the start of the second half almost saw him score a sensational goal, and he later denied by the post too. Can’t be blamed too much for Ajax’s first-half goals, but there was a distinct lack of man-marking on their fourth.
DF Fikayo Tomori, 5 — Struggled to win battles in the air at times but didn’t let that get to him. Worked hard throughout and his passion was evident when Chelsea’s equalising goal was struck.
DF Marcos Alonso, 4 — A performance he will be keen to quickly put behind him, and it was no surprise that Lampard opted to make a change at half-time. Alonso’s passing was off the mark and his visionary play didn’t match the standards expected at this level.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 6 — Just like his performance against Watford in the Premier League at the weekend, Kovacic was again exemplary — and perhaps frustrated to be called off the field by Lampard late in the game. His link-up play in midfield stood out most of all.
MF Jorginho, 7 — Two cool penalty finishes in pressure situations given the time of both spot kicks. Cool, calm and collected from the spot and utilised space in midfield well too to cap off another intelligent performance. Looks reinvented under Lampard.
MF Mason Mount, 5 — Was forced off the pitch prematurely after an unfortunate clash in the penalty area on the hour mark. Pressed hard and his work rate can’t be faulted, but his overall effectiveness was negatively affected by a few poor passes and touches.
MF Willian, 5 — Hesitated at times when passing options were available amid Chelsea’s efforts to get back into the game. At the same time, his positive runs forward didn’t lack.
FW Tammy Abraham, 5 – The fan favourite lacked his clinical flair in front of goal, and squandered a number of goal-scoring opportunities. His own goal was a dose of bad luck, but his performance picked up after Ajax went down to nine men.
FW Christian Pulisic, 6 — Continued his brilliant recent run of form by delivering a performance containing great energy and pace, highlighted by him winning a first-half penalty.
DF Reece James, 7 — Injected the ruthlessness Lampard required at a time when Chelsea needed it. Was helped by Ajax having two men sent off, which granted him a little more freedom to patrol the wing and support Blues’ forwards. Hammered home the equaliser into the corner after Chelsea had hit the bar and their chance looked to have gone.
FW Callum Hudson-Odoi, 7 — Pushed forward into excellent pockets of space and deserved an assist — or two — for his efforts on the left.
FW Michy Batshuayi, N/R — Came on late for Kovacic and could’ve been Chelsea’s hero with a late shot that was excellently saved.