Chelsea had to share a point with Ajax in the UEFA Youth League this afternoon after our first-half opener was cancelled out soon after the break as neither side could find a way through for a winner.
It was a high-profile game which was broadcast live on BT Sport and it certainly didn't disappoint when George McEachran arrowed a free-kick into the top corner from range to give Chelsea the lead after half an hour.
The Blues were in control of possession and were creating chances throughout the remainder of the game but couldn't apply the finishing touches to convert and it proved costly when Ajax notched after the restart. Terrence Douglas found the net after a menacing run forward allowed the space to shoot.
Andy Myers made three changes from the reverse fixture in Amsterdam last month. Henry Lawrence was introduced to defence with Lewis Bate taking a midfield spot. The final change came in attack where 16-year-old Valentino Livramento started alongside duo Armando Broja and Thierno Ballo – his second appearance in this competition.
It was a relatively quiet start to proceedings in Cobham and chances were at a premium with little goal-mouth action to report but Chelsea were comfortable in possession and patient with their build-up.
However, it was Ajax who conjured up the first attempt as Jaymillio Pinas’ strike from distance took a slight deflection but Karlo Ziger was aware of the danger and palmed the ball wide before Tariq Lamptey cleared any lurking risk.
Ziger was called into action again after half an hour’s play, this time the keeper was required to bat away Donny Warmerdam’s near-post hit – Ajax’s second attempt against the run of play.
Minutes later, McEachran gave Chelsea the lead in superb fashion from a 25-yard free-kick. It came after Tino Anjorin was fouled as he advanced on goal as the Blues’ patience paid off, 1-0.
The lead could’ve so nearly been doubled immediately after the restart. Lamptey raced through on goal but, forced wide, he fired into the side-netting. It was an excellent chance to punish the Dutch side as the game seemed to spark to life while the sunlight went down on Bonfire Night.
Brian Brobbey looked lively for the visitors but he failed to make Ziger work having slipped past the Blues’ defence, he blasted high and wide of the target. Chelsea took their lead into the half-time interval.
Livramento could only watch as his drive rolled across the face of goal a minute into the second half but it was Ajax who found the net next, drawing level after 51 minutes of play. Full-back Douglas sprinted into the box and picked out the top corner with a curling effort. 1-1.
Despite the setback, the Blues looked to restore their lead, this time Anjorin squared play and found the late run of Ballo, but keeper Issam El Maach’s stretched right foot kept us at bay.
Again Chelsea threatened with Livramento involved - his byline run followed by a low centre was scuffed goalwards by Broja, much to the luck of El Maach who gathered the ball gratefully.
Samuel Iling-Junior was introduced for his second UEFA Youth League appearance in place of Anjorin as the tie looked to be heading to a draw with just 10 minutes on the clock. However, there was time for one more chance and it fell for the vistors as Filip Frei flashed a shot across the face of goal, Ziger appeared to have it covered and the referee blew for full-time.
The point leaves us with some work to do in our remaining two games against bottom-placed Valencia and Lille, who look comfortable at the top of the group on nine points.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Karlo Ziger; Tariq Lamptey (Marcel Lewis 89), Marc Guehi (c), Clinton Mola, Henry Lawrence; Lewis Bate, George McEachran; Valentino Livramento, Faustino Anjorin (Samuel Iling-Junior 75), Thierno Ballo; Armando Broja
Unused subs Lucas Bergstrom, George Nunn, Levi Colwill, Dynel Simeu, Joe Haigh
Scorer McEachran 33
Ajax Issam El Maach, Filip Frei, Liam Van Gelderen, Nordin Musampa, Terrence Douglas, Enric Llansana (c), Joshua Pyandath (Tunahan Tasci 69) Donny Warmerdam, Brian Brobby (Max De Waal 60), Kian Fitz Jim (Ar’jany Martha 80), Jaymillio Pinas (Eja Dakreit 80)
Unused subs Daan Reiziger, Julius Dirksen,, Damjan Dostanic,
Booked Brobbey 10 De Waal 90
Scorer: Douglas 51
Referee: Donaldo Robertson (SCO)
- Additional pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom