Chelsea came back from 4-1 down at Stamford Bridge to draw 4-4 with Ajax, who had two players sent off in the second half of their Champions League match

Good luck trying to make sense of another one of those wild Champions League nights. With 55 minutes gone Chelsea, torn apart by the creative brilliance of Hakim Ziyech, were staring humiliation in the face. Donny van de Beek had fired Ajax into a 4-1 lead and at that stage, with the Dutch champions hitting the heights that saw them destroy Real Madrid and Juventus last season, it had become an exercise in damage limitation for Frank Lampards young side.

Somehow, though, Stamford Bridge found its voice. There was no booing from Chelseas fans, no hint of mutiny. Instead, they remained defiant. They kept urging their team to attack and the game took on a wild dimension when Csar Azpilicueta hauled Chelsea back into the contest in the 62nd minute.

Quincy
Quincy Promess free-kick would lead to Ajaxs opener and the Dutchman would also score another in the first half. Photograph: Ian Stephen/ProSports/Shutterstock

Logic evaporated as anarchy took hold. Callum Hudson-Odoi, on in place of the injured Mason Mount, injected fresh urgency to Chelseas attack and Ajax felt their poise draining away, with their loss of control summed up when their centre-backs, Daley Blind and Jol Veltman, were dismissed in the move that allowed Jorginho to score his second penalty of the night. Chaos reigned as the hosts roared forward. Reece James, a 19-year-old right-back, made it 4-4 with his first goal at this level and Chelsea thought they had won it when Azpilicueta fired home in the 78th minute, only for VAR to spot a handball by Tammy Abraham.

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It was absurd. Lampard took part in some storming Champions League games when he was playing for Chelsea and he did not know if this ranked as his wildest night at Stamford Bridge. More pertinently, though, Chelseas manager was unsure whether to be relieved with a point or disappointed that a winner eluded them during the closing stages. A draw keeps the west Londoners joint-top of Group H, level on seven points with Ajax and Valencia with two games left, keeping their hopes of reaching the last 16 in the balance.

There will have to be greater tactical precision when Chelsea visit Valencia later this month. The Spaniards thumped Lille 4-1 at home last night and will have noted the defensive failings that flared up against Ajax, who still carried a threat after going down to nine men. Edson lvarez and Noussair Mazraoui both tested Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelseas goalkeeper, during that barmy finale.

Yet for all that Ajax raged at Gianluca Rocchi, the Italian referee, Erik ten Hags smooth side also have to examine their own failings after squandering a three-goal lead. The Eredivisie pacesetters were outstanding during the opening hour, when the defensive organisation that brought Chelsea victory in Amsterdam two weeks ago was conspicuous only by its absence. It soon became apparent that Ajax, Champions League semi-finalists last season, were not cowed by Uefa forbidding their fans from entering Stamford Bridge as punishment for disorderly scenes in Valencia last month.

Csar
Csar Azpilicueta celebrates after Reece James thundered a shot past Andr Onana (left). Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Their approach was as bold as ever and they went ahead with a soft goal after two minutes. Quincy Promes whipped in a dangerous free-kick from the left and Abraham made a hash of his attempted clearance at the near post, swinging wildly at the ball and diverting it beyond Arrizabalaga.

An air of foreboding fell over Stamford Bridge, even though Chelseas response was immediate. Lampard was out of his seat in the dugout when Christian Pulisic, surging into the area after good work from Mount, was chopped down by Veltman. Jorginho casually sent Andr Onana the wrong way to bring Chelsea level.

Abraham had a goal disallowed for offside in the 14th minute but Ajax quickly regained their lead. Ten Hag picked an attacking side and David Neres caused plenty of problems for Marcos Alonso. Chelseas left-back was vulnerable before being replaced by James at half-time and Ajax found plenty of space down his flank, profiting when Ziyech crossed for Promes to peel behind Azpilicueta and head past Arrizbalaga.

Ajax were in control, though only Ziyech will know if he was going for goal when he flung a free-kick towards the far post from a position deep on the right. The Moroccans delivery flew over Arrizabalaga and the ball bounced off the inside of the post before going in off the Chelsea goalkeeper for another own-goal.

Fortunate when Promes missed a chance to put Ajax out of sight, Lampard put James at right-back and moved Azpilicueta to the left during the break. Yet the punishment continued. Ajax pressed hard, looking for errors, and Pulisic obliged when he lost possession. Ziyech fed Van de Beek, who had time and space to pick his spot.

Then things got weird. James kept charging down the right flank, Hudson-Odoi ran at Ajax and Chelsea were rewarded for their positivity when Azpilicueta scored from close range after Abraham had flicked on Pulisics cross.

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Chelsea 4 1 7
2 Ajax 4 5 7
3 Valencia 4 1 7
4 Lille 4 -7 1

Ajax unravelled, though they argued they were unfortunate that Rocchi should have awarded them a free-kick when Blind tussled with Jorginho. Play continued, Blind fouled Abraham and Veltman handled Hudson-Odois shot. Ajax seethed when Rocchi pointed to the spot before showing second yellow cards to Veltman and Blind.

Jorginho outwitted Onana again and Chelsea anticipated victory once James had hauled them level in the 74th minute, fizzing a low drive into the net after Abraham had headed against the bar. Yet there was still time for some VAR drama and Ajax held on when Onana brilliantly denied the Chelsea substitute, Michy Batshuayi, in the final minute.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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