The highs and lows of an epic contest - we assess how Chelsea players coped with the Ajax challenge
Chelsea salvaged a draw after trailing 4-1 on another of those great Champions League nights at Stamford Bridge. The game was transformed by two red cards for the Dutch side and the subdued atmosphere of the first half – caused by the absence of Ajax fans – gave way to raucous mayhem during the Blues’ thrilling fightback, which so very nearly ended in victory.
Here we look at how the played fared.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 5
The Chelsea keeper made a hash of the angled free-kick which cannoned off a post and his head to give the Dutch side a 3-1 lead. Lacked his usual composure in the face of some thrilling Ajax attacks but did well to keep out an Edson Alvarez effort late on.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 8
Never-say-die attitude shown in spades when he poked in Chelsea’s second from close range to make it 4-2 and his gesture showed he still believed. Looked like the Spaniard had won it when he smashed in from inside the area but VAR picked up on a brush of the arm.
Kurt Zouma: 6
A typically swashbuckling run in the second half ended with a predictable waft over the bar. But it did raise spirits and it was his header against the bar which preceded the dramatic blast from James, Had looked all at sea trying to stem Ajax’s nimble attacks but that was all forgotten.
Fikayo Tomori: 5
Given a torrid examination for much of the night by the brilliant crossing from Hakim Ziyech and the marauding Dusan Tadic but will surely be richer for the experience.
Marcos Alonso: 4
Replaced at half time by Reece James. Had a dire first half. Wayward passes and crosses. Did slap one shot on target from outside the area straight at keeper Andre Onana.
Matteo Kovacic: 7
Started brightly, taking the game to the Dutchmen and sliding a great ball through for Abraham to put in the net – albeit from an offside position. Replaced by Michy Batshuayi late on.
Another two coolly taken penalties from the unflappable Italian – calmly sending the keeper the wrong way twice. Overall contribution was impressive. Fine passing and positional play. Fans were chanting his name.
Some great touches as ever from the Brazilian but surprisingly not involved in the major moments. Had an angled volley at the keeper.
Christian Pulisic: 6
Involved in the second Blues goal which started the fightback. The American had a decent, but not outstanding night.
Tammy Abraham: 7
Unlucky to get the touch on a free-kick from Quincy Promes which took the ball past Kepa for the opening goal in the second minute. Had a hand in Chelsea’s second goal and always carried a threat with his poacher’s instincts during the second half onslaught from the Blues.
Mason Mount: 5
Hobbled off with an injury on the hour, with Callum Hudson-Odoi taking his place. Not a night when he was at his best.
Reece James: 7
Called into the action earlier than he might have expected. Did well in his duels with the dangerous Promes and then had a moment he will never forget, deliriously rifling in the equaliser to make it 4-4.
Callum Hudson-Odoi: 6
Almost won it at the death with a shot which went narrowly wide, although Batsuayi went even closer twice more in the last knockings. Pace and energy troubled Ajax’s increasingly stretched defence.