Chelsea became the first team since CFR Cluj (against Bayern Munich back in October 2010) to score two own goals in the first half of a Champions League game but the resilient Blues came back from the dead to squeeze a 4-4 stalemate out of an excellent Ajax side at the Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.
Just a couple of weeks after slumping to a shocking 1-0 defeat at home to Chelsea, Ajax thought they were on course to claim their pound of flesh, leading 4-1 at some point but Frank Lampard’s men fought back in remarkable fashion on an amazing UEFA Champions League night.
It was also the first time since drawing 4-4 at home to Liverpool back in April 2009 that Chelsea had conceded four goals in a single Champions League game and only the third time in their history.
It had all meant to go very differently as Chelsea boasted a 100% win record in Champions League matches against Dutch opponents, beating Feyenoord twice in the 1999/2000 season and Ajax on matchday three of this campaign.
However, barely 120 seconds into the encounter, the home side fell behind to an unfortunate own goal.
Azpilicueta’s foul near the touchline brought about a free-kick, which was whipped into the danger area by Promes and in the chaos inside the Chelsea penalty area, Abraham got the unfortunate last touch that guided the ball past Arrizabalaga and Stamford Bridge went silent.
But the Blues responded in impressive fashion within 60 seconds of the restart. Immediately after conceding, Pulisic went on a mazy run towards the visitors’ goal before getting hauled down by Veltman in the penalty area.
Calm as ever, Jorginho wrongfooted Onana and slotted his third penalty of the season to level things and raise the volume at the Bridge once more.
At 1-1, both teams traded chances with Tammy Abraham even finding the net but his effort was ruled out for offside.
Shortly after, though, Ajax regained the advantage.
Ziyech showed excellent vision to play a lovely cross towards the hosts’ six-yard area after more keep-ball from the visitors near the touchline and Promes reacted the quickest to head it past Arrizabalaga in no man’s land.
And with half time fast approaching, the visitors extended their lead. Ziyech aimed a free-kick towards Arrizabalaga’s far post with such precision that it hit the bar before going into the back of the net by bouncing off of the Chelsea stopper’s face. It was the strangest own goal to concede.
3-1 to the Dutch giants the scoreboard read at halftime in what would make for the perfect advert for the Champions League.
Whatever motivational talk Frank Lampard gave to his boys at the break soon evaporated ten minutes into the second half as Ajax netted their fourth goal of the night.
The magical Ziyech was yet again the architect as the Moroccan collected a loose ball from an Ajax counter and calmly played in Van De Beek who slotted it past Arrizabalaga to seal a terrible start to the evening for the English side.
But on the hour mark, Azpilicueta gave the home fans something to cheer about, the right-back rushing on at the far post to poke home a Tammy Abraham pass. 2-4 Chelsea.
Chelsea needed inspiration from somewhere, anywhere and it arrived with 20 minutes left to play when Ajax’s defender Daley Blind was dismissed after picking up his second yellow card of the night for handling the ball in the box. Jorginho once again stepped up to convert the kick to pull Chelsea back in the game.
Two minutes later, an absurd game got even more unreal as the hosts pulled level thanks to youngster James Reece who rifled the ball home through a crowded Ajax penalty area. It was a comeback of massive proportions, from 4-1 down.
Chelsea thought they had completed the comeback moments after when Azpilicueta yet again found the back of the net to make it 5-4 but VAR chalked the goal off for handball to vex the home side and their fans.
Chances were created and fine saves made by both goalkeepers in the closing stages but neither side could make the breakthrough as Chelsea and Ajax settled for a 4-4 draw in one of the finest Champions League matches ever at the Stamford Bridge.