Lampard hails Reece James and 'fighting spirit' in Chelsea's stunning Ajax fightback
Frank Lampard praised youngster Reece James after the teenager's hugely impressive contribution to a stunning Champions League comeback.
The right back came on for Marcos Alonso after the break against Ajax on Tuesday night and helped transform the mood before thumping in the equaliser to become the club's youngest ever goalscorer in the competition.
It will surely be a moment the player never forgets, no matter what he goes on to achieve in his career.
The Blues had trailed 4-1, but two red cards and bucket-loads of determination got them back into it and keeps them on track for the knock-out stages.
“Reece is a fantastic young player and he gives what you saw,” said the Chelsea boss after the crazy 4-4 draw against last season's semi-finalists.
“I think he can get much better because he's 19 and that's just normal.
“I felt we needed the change to get a bit more for us on the right hand side. Reece can deliver crosses with great quality – he's powerful and joins in.
“He's going to be a top player for the club. He's got great quality and when you look at the model fullbacks and the things that are required – to join in and be a threat going forward, as some of the other fullbacks are doing in the Premier League in an outstanding way, hopefully Reece can do it for us.”
Lampard, who described the game as '”a mad one” admitted a mixture of disappointment and relief at the fightback, considering they played against nine men for the last 20 minutes.
But he was delighted with the spirit shown by his troops.
“We are probably a bit disappointed in the last 10 minutes not to win it, but in the cold light of day we were 3-1 down and 4-1 down and it was a good result in those terms,” he said.
“The spirit that we showed and the character was something that I loved and I think our fans loved.
“We need to tighten up for sure, but with that spirit, we can go places.
“I don't want to compare to the past. Every Chelsea fan here today knows the stories that we had in the Champions League and the league. What we have to focus on is what we have in front of us now, and for a performance like today, you need characters, personalities.
“At 3-1 down at half time it's easy to turn it in, even easier at 4-1 down and give it up, but we never did.”
Chelsea now have seven points in their group – the same number as Ajax and Valencia with two to play. Qualification is still in their hands but not yet assured.
“The Valencia game, the first game here, you kick yourself because of the penalty [a miss by Ross Barkley] and a draw maybe would have got us off to a decent start and the group would look different,” Lampard said. “But I think this group was always going to be quite tight, because there was the feeling teams could take points off each other. But we're in it with two games to go.
“We certainly have a lot of work to do. We need to go to Valencia and Lille come here, both of those very tough matches. The performances we put in at Lille and Ajax should give us confidence, but every game is difficult.”