Frank Lampard was left understandably delighted following a huge Champions League victory for his young side in Amsterdam, with Michy Batshuayi’s late goal enough to settle a tight contest against last season’s Champions League semi-finalists.
The Belgian came off the bench with 19 minutes remaining and within 15 of those he had netted the only goal of the game. Afterwards, Lampard commended his impact, as well as that of fellow introduction Christian Pulisic, who provided the match-winning assist.
The boss praised a performance in which his team excelled in every element and claimed the display could be a blueprint for them moving forward in the competition and beyond.
‘It feels huge,' he said in his post-match press conference. ‘That always scares me because there’s a lot to do and it’s just six points halfway through the group now but we’re entitled to be excited about how we played tonight.
‘It can be a bit of a blueprint for us in terms of the work from the midfield players which was outstanding, the work of the wingers was outstanding, the work of the full-backs getting out to top players and stopping them making passes and easy decisions was absolutely outstanding.
‘I could go through them all - Kurt Zouma, what a performance - but there’s no excuses for us now to dip from that.’
Lampard also had words of praise for his substitutes, who combined for the late goal.
‘Sometimes the toughest part of management is leaving out players that really want to play week-in, week-out. You rely on them being positive and coming on to make an impact. Both Michy and Christian [Pulisic] did that so I’m delighted for them both and delighted for the whole squad because it’s great for team spirit when subs come on and make a difference like that.
'The beauty of my role is I have Michy and Olivier Giroud, whose training and positivity when they’re not playing regularly is exactly what you want. Michy’s hold-up play instantly was good in the game, he made a difference and got his goal so I’m delighted for him.’
Much has been spoken of Pulisic in recent weeks but Lampard admitted he had ignored the speculation and focused on working with the American on a daily basis.
‘You have to give Christian huge credit because he looked so lively when he came on and the assist is just as important as the finish. The fact that a substitute scored makes me so happy because it’s not easy when you’re picking a similar team every week.
‘I’ve tried to shut my ears to a lot of the outside talk because there’s a lot said. I understand his quality, his young age and the fact it’s a big move for him. He wants to know what I want from him, what the Premier League is like and that’s not always an easy ride but we’ve stayed calm and kept looking at the big picture.’
Lampard finished by reflecting on the significance of the result in the Dutch capital.
‘The younger players are still babies in Champions League minutes so this was a huge test for them. Football will continue to give you tests all the time so I don’t want to say they’re there or this is it but I thought the balance of our team between the young players who are learning quickly and the experienced players who they rely on to set examples was good. We just need to realise the things that made that result happen tonight because Ajax are a top team, the atmosphere was difficult for us.
‘We respected Ajax and that’s how we should be. I focus on ourselves a lot and the most pleasing thing I see at the minute is the desire to improve, take on information and follow a game plan. When you come into a new club, you do make changes and you rely on all the squad taking those bits in and working with that but the signs are good at the moment.’