He’s done it before in important games and he did it again to seal a great away win in Amsterdam. A late Michy Batshuayi goal sealed all three points from our visit to the Netherlands.
An enthralling contest which deserved a goal was heading for a goalless draw when two second-half substitutes combined with four minutes left on the clock. Christian Pulisic supplied the ammunition and Batshuayi blasted it into the Ajax net.
Our sixth straight win is a result which extends the Blues’ club-record unbeaten run of away European games to nine and playing against an Ajax side which had cruised through this group stage up until now with consecutive 3-0 wins over Lille and Valencia, and who were last year’s semi-finalists, it is a fine result. We move level on points with the Dutch champions and have the chance to open a gap on them when we host them at Stamford Bridge in a fortnight’s time.
These two sides looked evenly matched throughout most of this game although prior to our goal, Ajax came closest to scoring when they hit the woodwork in the second half. They had a first-half goal ruled out by VAR for a close offside call.
Two of Chelsea youngsters posed the most danger to the other goal before the break, with Mason Mount seeing a shot well-saved and Callum Hudson-Odoi sending a couple of opportunities wide. Later in the game Batshuayi lifted a great chance over when unmarked but he more than made amends when the next chance fell his way.
Before this game Frank Lampard stated it would be an important test for his younger players, and it is one they did not fail!
For his team selection, Lampard had pretty much stuck with the side that found a way to overcome Newcastle on Saturday. Injured Ross Barkley’s place went to the player who replaced him in the first half four days ago, Mateo Kovacic.
Hudson-Odoi started his first Champions League game and in contrast, Cesar Azpilicueta played his 350th game for Chelsea in all competitions, the sixth overseas player to reach that milestone, and tonight he excelled in defence as he has done so many times before. Fikayo Tomori and Kurt Zouma also caught the eye at times in that aspect of play.
Soon after the game started, Marcos Alonso could count himself fortunate that an offside Ajax player prevented him being on the wrong side of a strong case for handball inside our penalty area, just one incident in a lively opening.
Chelsea forced two quick corners, the second of which was met by Tomori but without enough contact to send it on target and on eight minutes, Ajax defender Joel Veltman fizzed a shot across the turf from a long way out. It did not miss by much but Kepa may have saved it anyway had it been more accurate.
Then came a good spell for Chelsea, with Mount forcing Andre Onana into his first save to keep out a near-post shot.
Neither team were able to retain possession for any length of time during the middle period of a hotly contested first half, but both were showing plenty of positive intent when they did have it.
With 26 minutes gone, Hudson-Odoi snatched at a ball that fell promisingly his way and fired his shot wide, having also missed the target not long before.
On 35 minutes came the first half’s big moment. Had the Ajax goal stood then it would have been Chelsea cursing our misfortune as initially, a valiant attempt by Alonso to intercept had unluckily left him out of position when the ball fell the home side’s way, and then the cross which Quincy Promes put into our net was deflected into his path off the back of Tomori.
Instead however, it was the Blues who were eventually smiling when a VAR check gave a marginal offside and the goal was ruled out.
Chelsea were causing Ajax problems on the break, although Azpilicueta was wasteful with a shot when in plenty of space. Our captain had however excelled moments earlier with what was probably a goal-saving tackle.
At the start of the second half, Ajax captain Dusan Tadic was booked for clattering into Willian who was beginning a run deep inside our half. That was the first yellow card on the pitch although there had been one shown at the benches during the first half, to our assistant coach Jody Morris.
The second period continued in much the same vein as the first until the hour was nearly up when Ajax came close to taking the lead. Edson Alvarez was first to a corner but his header skimmed the face of the Chelsea post. Moments later, Kepa saved from Daley Blind.
Pulisic and then Batshuayi were introduced for the closing stages and the second of those two had a golden chance to hit the net when a ball from the first deflected his way, but he sent it over the bar. The Belgian might have been offside anyway.
Pulisic shot wide as the game reached its final 10 minutes but there was still time for their big impact. The American, who did well when he came on against Newcastle, again takes plenty of credit. He worked the chance to cross low and when he did, Alonso cleverly dummied allowing Batshuayi to find the roof of the net.
Before the end he forced a save from Onana but his one goal was enough.
Ajax have a history of struggling at home against English sides, and London clubs especially, and happily that continued again tonight.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Zouma, Tomori, Alonso; Kovacic, Jorginho, Mount; Willian (Pulisic 66), Abraham (Batshuayi 71), Hudson-Odoi (James 90).
Unused subs Caballero, Emerson, Gilmour, Giroud.
Scorer Batshuayi 86
Booked Zouma 84
Ajax (4-2-3-1): Onana; Dest, Veltman (Huntelaar 88), Blind, Tagliafico; Alvarez (De Jong 88), Martinez; Ziyech, Van de Beek, Promes (Neres 74); Tadic (c).
Unused subs Varela, Schuurs, Mazraoui, Marin.
Booked Tadic 49, Martinez 65
Referee Ovidiu Hategan from Romania.