Taking charge at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, club legend Frank Lampard faced an uphill battle of marshalling his young troops on the field against more experienced and proven opponents. In the ongoing Premier League season so far, the young Chelsea brigade has impressed everyone with its youthful exuberance as much as it has disappointed with its often silly and immature outings.
But, on 6th November, when Ajax came visiting the home of the Blues for the Group H clash of the UEFA Champions League, the two contrasting characters of Lampard's young brigade, which has left fans in awe and disappointment this season, showed a completely different side of a team that many thought was done and dusted for better part of the match.
ICYMI, the Chelsea v Ajax game had:
- 8 goals
- 2 own goals
- 2 red cards
- 2 penalties
- 2 disallowed goals
- A 4-1 comeback
Absolutely insane game of football at Stamford Bridge.
In what turned out to be one of the most entertaining contests in recent times, a young Chelsea brigade showed great character and fighting spirit to secure a 4-4 draw against Ajax. Going purely by numbers, Ajax had no fans, 11 players and a three-goal lead by the 62nd minute. With 71 minutes gone, Ajax still had no fans, but their numbers had gone down from 11 to nine on the pitch and a three-goal lead was nowhere to be found.
Akin to their performances this season, the match had passed through two distinct eras. First was the period of a well-grooved Ajax dominance, built on the back of the club's iconic pass-and-move incision and equally aided by Chelsea's terrible performance at the back. After then came the hour of complete madness, one that made the air crackle as the moon shone a strange shade of blue, giving back Stamford Bridge its voice.November 5, 2019
Within two minutes from kick-off, Chelsea appeared to look like its usual, reckless self when Tammy Abraham made a hash of his attempted clearance at the bear post, swinging wildly at the ball and diverting it beyond Kepa Arrizabalaga to hand the Dutch champions an early lead. It was sight, something Chelsea fans have endured all season, that had an air of foreboding falling over Stamford Bridge even when the home side found an equaliser almost immediately.
Two minutes after conceding an early own goal, some brilliant work from Mason Mount and a darting run from Christian Pulisic had Lampard and the home crowd at the edge of their seats as Ajax centre-back Joel Veltman chopped the latter down in the box, giving away a penalty. Earned by Pulisic, the penalty was eventually taken by experienced Jorginho who casually sent Andre Onana the wrong way to level the proceedings.
In the 14th minute, Abraham had a goal disallowed for offside but it was Ajax who quickly gained the lead. With Erik Ten Hag fielding an attacking Ajax side, Marcos Alonso undeniably had a tough night before being replaced by James at half-time. The Chelsea wing-back, troubled by David Neres, gave away plenty of space down his flank - something Hakim Ziyech used to his advantage to cross for Quincy Promes who headed Ajax in front again.
After setting up the second goal for Ajax, Ziyech, in the 35th minute, played his part in another with a testing free-kick towards the far post from a position deep on the right. The Moroccan's delivery flew over Arrizabalaga and the ball bounced off the inside of the post before going in off the Chelsea goalkeeper for, yet another, frustrating own goal.
With Ajax securing a 3-1 lead at half-time, Lampard, like a packed Stamford Bridge stadium, was probably sick of watching the Chelsea centre-backs playing through a mist of confusion and leaving huge untended open spaces for the visitors to exploit. On the other hand, Mount and Pulisic had completed just five passes between them in the opening 40 minutes. And, by half-time, the same pair had given the ball to the opposition players a staggering 11 times, one fewer than they had managed to their own players.
While Chelsea was looking like its own silly, immature self, Ajax appeared too compact and vigorous in their movements. Thus, going into the second-half, Lampard took Alonso out, put Reece James at right-back position and moved Azpilicueta to the left. But, despite the changes from Lampard, the punishment continued for Chelsea.
The visitors pressed hard, looking for errors and Pulisic obliged. Lampard and the Stamford Bridge crowd watched in agony as the American footballer gave the ball away high up the pitch. Thanks to Pulisic's lapse in concentration, Ziyech fed Donny van de Beek who had ample amount of time to pick his spot and send the ball into the corner. And, Ajax romped to a 4-1 lead in 55 minutes.
The fourth goal had silenced the Stamford Bridge but there was no booing, no mutiny from home fans who remained defiant. They kept urging Lampard's men to attack and, just when everyone had given up, the far-fetched fantasy became their wildest reality. The game took on a wild dimension when Azpilicueta hauled the Blues back into the match with a 63rd-minute strike to make it 4-2. And, soon, logic evaporated as anarchy took hold.
Callum Hudson-Odoi's substitution in place of injured Mount injected the fresh urgency Chelsea's attack needed and Ajax felt their poise draining away. Their loss of control was summed up when their centre-backs Daley Blind and Veltman were dismissed in the move that allowed Jorginho to score his second penalty.
Just Imagine not being Chelsea......!!!! If after that you don't get on board with this current group of players & Frank at the helm then I've no words for you, that game is the reason we do what we do for our beloved Chelsea, London's first London's Finest #ChelseaFC pic.twitter.com/qzroh2T3QZ— Andy Howie (@ChelsLad66) November 5, 2019
Chaos reigned further as Chelsea, thriving on a newly-found resolve, roared forward to take the fight to the Dutch champions. James, a 19-year-old right-back, scored the biggest goal of his young career when he made it 4-4 for Chelsea in the 74th minute. Four minutes later, the home side thought they had scripted one of the wildest comeback wins at Stamford Bridge when Azpilicueta fired home in the 78th minute, only for VAR to rule it out for Abraham's handball.
Chelsea Football Club is on it's way back and everyone knows it...
It was, above all, a brilliantly entertaining spectacle. Lampard's young side had taken 22 shots at goal and really should have won. But, Ajax were thrillingly reckless too. Despite being reduced to nine men and watching their four-goal lead vanquish in second half, the Dutchmen kept on pouring forward in search of a winner. While the match failed to find a winner, football triumphed and left fans wanting more.
Slapped with a transfer ban, Chelsea have been forced to persist with the young guns who, despite their torturous mistakes on the field, continue to learn and adapt. For the better part of this season, football pundits and fans have cornered the Blues for their immaturity and lack of experience, but if anyone saw last night's game, they'd have surely noticed the glimpse of a developing soul. One that has eluded Chelsea over the past couple of years. And, one that holds the great promise of returning the Blues to their lost glory.