This group game turned in one jaw-dropping second-half moment with Chelsea taking control but Ajax bravely saw off the late challenge from the hosts
Crash, bang, wallop. One of the all-time great Champions League games was played out in the first-ever Stamford Bridge meeting between Chelsea and Ajax.It was 4-4 on the night in Group H, leaving plenty yet to be decided, but that doesn’t even tell half the story.
A minute of self-destruction from Ajax midway through the second half turned the tide with Daley Blind lunging on Tammy Abraham and being issued a second yellow card.
Not only that, but in the next moment Joel Veltman’s handball in the box meant that he would give away a penalty during Chelsea’s advantage stemming from the Blind foul.
Ajax’s players then exploded in front of referee Gianluca Rocchi leading to another red card for the already-booked Veltman.
Jorginho scored the penalty to make it 3-4 on the night and Reece James would go onto equalise from a corner after Kurt Zouma headed it against Andre Onana’s crossbar.
That minute of chaos added to what was already shaping up to be a classic with six goals scored as two young sides showed both frailty and magic.
It was built upon brilliance from both Quincy Promes and Hakim Ziyech, who had helped Ajax build an incredible 4-1 lead.
The opening goal was a brilliant set-piece that lured Tammy Abraham into an own goal off Promes’s delivery. The Dutch forward then went on to head in Ziyech’s wonderful looping cross.
Ziyech then put over a stunning freekick that found the net via the post and Kepa Arrizabalaga’s face, yet another goal that could be attributed to mistakes for both the goalkeeper and Marcos Alonso.
Jorginho had earlier equalised earlier from the spot, the fact that the defensive midfielder spent most of the game on a hat-trick gives an insight into one of the craziest nights in Champions League history.
Captain Cesar Azpilicueta’s goal to make it 2-4 didn’t have the feel of the goal that could feature in one of the all time great comebacks, particularly as he was one of many Chelsea defenders struggling to contain Ajax.
But Reece James’s late goal meant Chelsea’s unlikely comeback would be complete, one of the unlikliest in the history of the competition.
Unpicking what the match means for either side more broadly has been hard. This was football played for pure joy, as if they were kids playing five-a-side in a cage.
Neither side ended the match with any sense of structure as Lampard threw caution to the wind and Ajax had to learn to play with nine men. Learn they did, and they created several chances to go 5-4 up into the bargain.
Chelsea, inevitably, looked more likely and Ajax’s tormentor from two weeks ago came onto the pitch late on, Michy Batshuayi on for a defensive midfielder in Mateo Kovacic. His two shots were inches wide from killing Ajax.
Azpilicueta did indeed appear to make it 5-4 but VAR ruled it out for handball in the box from Abraham.
Article continues below
Remarkably, a point each seems unfair for each side, whose exploits on the night left much of Europe on the edge of their seats. The splitting of the points means that Group H has been very tight going into the last two games.
Chelsea may well be disappointed not to win in the context of the two red cards for the opposition and, as Valencia won 4-1 against Lille, all has been equal at the top of the standings with two games to go.
Tonight has been Bonfire Night in England; a night when fireworks explode for entertainment across the country but the best and biggest ones were seen at Stamford Bridge.