Michy Batshuayi scored a late winner to ensure a 1-0 win for Chelsea, who prevailed over Ajax in a cagey affair in Amsterdam on Wednesday.
A hairy first half saw clear-cut chances come few and far between for both sides. Ajax, though, had a goal disallowed for offside by the tightest of margins, after Quincy Promes put the ball into the back of the net from Hakim Ziyech’s deflected cross. Post the interval, Ajax had the first big chance to grab the lead, only to see Edson Alvarez hit the woodwork with his header.
As the minutes ticked by, it seemed as if the game would fizzle out as a goalless draw. But, with four minutes left in regulation time, Michy Batshuayi finally broke the deadlock, converting Christian Pulisic’s pass from close range. That goal would be enough to seal the win for the Blues, who now lead the Group H standings, and The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Frank Lampard’s men.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 6/10
A quiet evening for the most part for Kepa, who was well beaten when Quincy Promes netted in the first half before the goal was ruled out for offside. Had just two regulation saves to make and was assured when distributing the ball, apart from one instance when a stray ball almost put Chelsea in trouble.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7/10
A game of hits and misses for Azpilicueta. But, the hits outweighed the misses, with the major down point being the Chelsea captain’s poor delivery from the right flank, which failed to test the Ajax defence.
At the back, he switched off when Promes found the back of the net before being bailed out by the offside call. But, other than that moment, Azpilicueta was solid in the defensive third, with a last-ditch tackle to thwart Promes in the first half standing out. Needs to address his offensive output, however.
Kurt Zouma: 8/10
After a slow start to the season, the recent weeks have been a tale of resurgence for Zouma. And, the Frenchman continued his fine run of form on Wednesday, rendering the dangerous Dusan Tadic to be a non-factor throughout the game.
What was also a pleasing aspect of Zouma’s performance was his prowess on the ball, with the defender completing 89 percent of the passes he attempted. The upturn in form continues for Zouma, which only bodes well for Chelsea going forward.
Fikayo Tomori: 8/10
Like Zouma, Tomori was colossal at the back, staying diligent in his duties all throughout, which was the need of the hour for him after a second successive underwhelming performance this past weekend against Newcastle United. The youngster made a staggering 8 clearances, won 2 tackles and made as many interceptions while being dominant in the air (4 aerial duels won). Outstanding.
Marcos Alonso: 7/10
Defensive astuteness is not a quality one generally associates with Alonso. But, against Ajax, the Spaniard was in inspired form at the back, keeping Hakim Ziyech quiet for the entire 90. Was not at his best going forward, but had a role to play in the match winning goal, with his smart dummy from Christian Pulisic’s cross enabling Michy Batshuayi to net the winner.
Mason Mount: 6/10
Like Willian, Mount was on the periphery for large parts of the game, and was not as creative as he can be on his best days. Linked up well with Callum Hudson-Odoi, but the final ball was missing, as was the case against Newcastle as well. A couple of rare blips, perhaps.
As has been the case all through the season, Jorginho was in command in the middle of the park, setting the tempo of the game in the face of Ajax’s high-pressing style. Always at hand to do a clean up job off the ball, the Italian international made a couple of vital interventions to snuff out dangerous moves. Just cannot seem to do much wrong at the moment.
Mateo Kovacic: 8/10
Kovacic continued from where he had left off against Newcastle, getting stuck in to win the ball high up and also showing a lot of urgency to win stray balls. The most impressive aspect about his showing, though, was the fact that he had a pass accuracy of 92 percent when largely attempting the risky forward passes. Quite an asset for Lampard.
An underwhelming performance by Willian, who never quite managed to get into the game, with Nicolas Tagliafico a clear winner of their personal duel. The Brazilian also struggled to keep track of the Ajax full-back while dropping back a number of times, making it a game to forget for the winger.
Callum Hudson-Odoi: 5/10
Making his first start in the Champions League, Hudson-Odoi was one of the brightest sparks in the game, constantly looking to take the Ajax defenders on. While his pace and trickery caused a lot of concerns for the hosts, the young Englishman left a lot to be desired with his finishing, scuffing a few shots from promising positions. Needs to become more clinical.
Tammy Abraham: 5/10
As was the case on the weekend, Abraham found himself being isolated for large parts of the game against Ajax as well. Was willing to drop deep and help his side out off the ball, but was deprived of service yet again, which meant that he was never involved in a meaningful opportunity for Chelsea.
Christian Pulisic: 8/10
On for the frustrated Willian, Pulisic made a visible difference instantaneously. Created a fanstastic chance for Batshuayi before setting the Belgian up for the winner with a fine pass. Has done more than enough to get back into the reckoning of being a regular and needs to be handed more starts.
Michy Batshuayi: 8/10
Batshuayi has come to be associated as a threatening prospect off the bench and that was the case against Ajax as well. The same was evident in the fact that he had more shots than any other player in the match (4) despite only being on the pitch for 20 minutes.
Seemed to have fluffed his lines with one of those shots before slamming the winner late on to seal all three points for Chelsea.
Reece James: N/A
On for the final few minutes of the game, James helped see the game out.