Strange things were afoot at Stamford Bridge last night as Chelsea battled back from a 4-1 second-half deficit, thanks in large part to two red cards and a penalty given away by Ajax in one single passage of play. But Chelsea had to settle for a 4-4 draw in the end, the rollercoaster of emotions petering out to a soft thud against the proverbial bumpers.
It’s not easy to digest a result like that. Chelsea looked to be heading to an embarrassing three-goal home defeat, if not more; 20 minutes later, we were disappointed not to be winning. Football, bloody hell, as Sir Alex Ferguson famously put it after Manchester United’s two stoppage time goals won the Champions League in 1999.
Reece James simply called it crazy.
“It was a crazy game, being 3-1 down at half-time and then bringing it back to 4-4. There’s a little bit of disappointment because we had a few chances where we could have scored to win the game but from where we were at half-time, it was a great end to the game.”
As uplifting as the last 25 minutes were, after both Ajax center backs were dismissed with second yellow cards (Blind for hacking down Abraham and Veltman for dissent or handball), Chelsea were just as uninspiring in the first-half. Defensive mistakes gifted multiple goals to the visitors who also controlled possession, while the less said about our decision-making in the final third, the better. And even after Ajax were down two men, they still posed a threat and Chelsea wasted several opportunities beyond the massive save Onana made on Batshuayi and of course the potential winning goal that was ruled for an inadvertent handball on Abraham.
In short, questions will have to be asked, as James acknowledged in his post-match comments as well.
“They were hard to break down and we scored quite a few once they went down to nine men. It was just a shame we didn’t win it. You can look at it from both points of view – we could have had all three points but we’re happy to at least get one and take a draw. There are questions we can ask ourselves but once you’re in that position [4-1 down], you just need to give everything to get out of it.”
James himself played a big role in the comeback, arriving at half-time and injecting life and purpose into the Chelsea attack on the right flank. His glorious kneeslide after the equalizing goal, making him the youngest Champions League goalscorer in club history, fit the occasion as well.
“[The head coach] didn’t say too much, just to go on, get in the game and liven the boys up. I was happy to come on and make an impact but scoring a goal was a bonus. It’s always a great feeling scoring at Stamford Bridge and for such a great club.”
-Reece James; source: Chelsea FC
Hopefully the first of many goals, and many more impactful appearances for the club indeed.