Chelsea became the second English side to shock Ajax’s Johan Cruijff ArenA in the space of six months as they recorded a stunning 1-0 win in Amsterdam through Michy Batshuayi’s late strike. The hosts thought they’d taken the lead when Quincy Promes stabbed home at the back post, but VAR adjudged him to be a hair offside. From then on Chelsea were excellent in every department, and the visitors got what they deserved courtesy of a powerful Batshuayi finish to move level on points with their opponents at the top of Group H.
The Blues held strong and looked more confident as the game progressed in what became a thoroughly dominant display. Frank Lampard’s side showed excellent organisation at the back and worked hard to disrupt Ajax’s rhythm, as the hosts found it difficult to slip into their slick passing game that normally seems so effortless. It was another night where Chelsea’s young players were asked to make another big step up, and they did so superbly. Christian Pulisic and Batshuayi were excellent off the bench and the duo combined brilliantly to produce the match-winning moment.
— Pulisic Watch: American impresses at Ajax
Chelsea rode their luck early on and struggled to get a strong foothold in the game against a dangerous Ajax side full of energy and creativity. The visitors were prone to the occasional lapse in concentration and were left sweating when a cruel deflection off Fikayo Tomori ended up in the back of the net courtesy of the lively Promes, but VAR saved the day.
Manager rating (out of 10)
8 — A masterclass from the Chelsea boss. Lampard has continued to back his younger players since the opening day of the season. That may be down, in part, to the success of a frighteningly good and youthful Ajax side in recent years. Either way, Lampard’s tactics, team selection and substitutions all proved spot on.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 6 — Produced a couple of smart stops including one from a long-range Daley Blind effort, but enjoyed a much quieter night than he probably expected.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 — Captain Cool. Produced a superbly-timed, last-ditch tackle to snuff out the danger as Promes hunted for the opener. Guilty of wasting an excellent opportunity when he fired over with three Chelsea men waiting for the cross, but showed his experience in an excellent defensive display.
DF Kurt Zouma, 7 — Seems to be relishing life back at Chelsea after last year’s loan spell at Everton. Remained composed to help his side weather an early Ajax storm and stood firm alongside Tomori.
DF Fikayo Tomori, 8 — Proved a rock at the back after a shaky start and produced some proper “no nonsense” defending. Saved by a VAR check after a horribly unlucky deflection dropped for Promes to stab home, but otherwise a strong display.
DF Marcos Alonso, 6 — Got away with an early penalty shout but proved a vital cog in a Chelsea back four that stood firm against an Ajax attack bursting with energy. Showed more confidence to get forward as Chelsea settled and took control of the game.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 6 — Always looking for a forward pass when it might have been all too easy to take the “safety first” approach and never shied away from his defensive duties. An excellent display.
MF Jorginho, 7 — Showed vital composure on the ball to help Chelsea dictate possession from midfield as the Blues frustrated their opponents. Read the game superbly to snuff out a couple of potentially fatal Ajax attacks.
MF Mason Mount, 7 — A key outlet as Chelsea looked to take control in midfield and found plenty of joy down the left. Forced Andre Onana into a good save at the keeper’s near post on one occasion and seems to love the challenge of competing at a higher level.
FW Willian, 6 — So effective at relieving pressure with that burst of pace, but struggled to find his attacking best and was replaced by Christian Pulisic in the 66th minute.
FW Tammy Abraham, 5 — A quieter performance. Showed a willingness to pick the ball up in deeper areas and find a pass as he looked to help Chelsea play, but lost Alvarez far too easily as the Ajax man came within inches of opening the scoring. Replaced by Michy Batshuayi in the 70th minute.
FW Callum Hudson-Odoi, 6 — Worked hard and always looked like he might make something happen for Chelsea. Replaced by Reece James in stoppage time.
DF Reece James, N/R — No real time to make an impact, but a fantastic moment for him nonetheless.
FW Christian Pulisic, 7 — Replaced Willian in the 66th minute. Fizzed a dangerous effort just wide of goal to end a lovely one-touch passing move. Proved the architect of a magic moment when he squared for Batshuayi to fire home the winner.
FW Michy Batshuayi, 8 — Always looked dangerous off the bench. Fired over a golden chance on the half-volley but made no mistake the second time around, emphatically crashing home Pulisic’s cross via the crossbar. Also drew a late corner with a fine effort as Chelsea looked to put the game to bed.
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