80 min: And now a corner for Ajax. Willian goes down to relieve pressure on the hosts, who are able to clear their lines. There’s no way this is going to end 4-4, is it?
VAR! NO GOAL! Chelsea 4-4 Ajax
79 min: Another twist in this wild game! In the middle of the melee, Jorginho had taken a shot that hit Abraham’s arm. The hand ball saves Ajax’s blushes. For now.
GOAL! Chelsea 5-4 Ajax (Azpilicueta 78)
This is absurd! Hudson-Odoi feeds Azpilicueta down the left. There’s a melee. Pinball. Then the ball breaks to the Chelsea captain, who arrows a shot into the top right! It’s probably for the best that Ajax don’t have any fans here to witness it.
77 min: Nope. They don’t exactly load the box. They can’t commit too many men forward. Chelsea clear.
76 min: But the nine men of Ajax aren’t quite finished yet! Promes bustles under a long ball and James handles. Free kick, which Promes sends towards the top left. Kepa is forced to fingertip over. A corner! Ajax can’t, surely. Can they?
75 min: Willian dribbles along the byline, to the right of the Ajax goal. His low fizzer is gathered by Onana. Chelsea scent blood.
GOAL! Chelsea 4-4 Ajax (James 74)
This is quite amazing! Chelsea win a corner down the right. Zouma rises high and crashes a header onto the crossbar. The ball pings out, to the feet of James, just inside the box to the right. James pearls a shot into the bottom left, and goes sliding off on his knees as the Stamford Bridge roof spins off towards Surrey. Holy moly!
73 min: Ajax make a double sub. Ziyech and Neres are replaced by Schuurs and Alvarez. It’s have-what-we-hold for the visitors!
GOAL! Ajax 3-4 Chelsea (Jorginho 71 pen)
A skip and a sidefoot into the bottom left! Ice-cool! This is on! Stamford Bridge, so quiet so recently, is bouncing!
Red card … and a penalty … and another red card!
70 min: Throw Chelsea a double lifeline, that’s what! The referee goes back to book Blind. It’s his second yellow, so he’s off! Then he awards a penalty. Then he books Veltman for the handball! It’s his second yellow, too. And in the blink of an eye, Ajax are down to nine men! A miracle comeback is on!
68 min: What an outrageous passage of play! Blind hands off Jorginho, then slides in on Abraham. It’s a foul, but the referee waves play on. Hudson-Odoi picks up possession and cuts inside from the left. He whacks a shot straight at Veltman … who handles in the area! What’s the referee going to do?
66 min: Jorginho shimmies down the inside-right channel and shanks a shot. Abraham and Azpilicueta try to turn the ball goalwards, but neither can connect properly. Goal kick. But Chelsea have their tails up now.
64 min: That’s injected some energy into Stamford Bridge! There was a brief VAR check, but Azpilicueta was onside. Just. Small mercies, the check didn’t take too long, and the buzz of scoring wasn’t totally lost.
GOAL! Chelsea 2-4 Ajax (Azpilicueta 63)
Then suddenly there’s a bit of space for Pulisic on the right. He enters the box and rolls the ball across for Abraham, who turns the ball towards the bottom left. It’s heading just wide, but Azpilicueta is there to toe-poke it in from half a yard, just in time!
62 min: A bit of sterile possession for Chelsea ends when Promes crashes into the back of Willian. He’s booked.
60 min: Mount is replaced by Callum Hudson-Odoi. A huge roar. The home fans haven’t had much else to cheer about.
59 min: And now Mount’s down, having hurt his ankle when coming together with van de Beek. There’s been no foul play, it looks as though he’s just gone over his ankle upon landing awkwardly. Not sure he’s going to be able to continue. As if Stamford Bridge hadn’t been quietened enough already.
57 min: Abraham takes a knock when going up to compete for James’s right-wing cross. Onana clatters him, totally accidentally. Happily for Chelsea, the striker’s soon up and about again.
GOAL! Chelsea 1-4 Ajax (van de Beek 55)
… Ajax go straight up the other end and score. Neres works his way down the right and cuts back for Ziyech, who instantly shuttles the ball inside for van de Beek. He takes a touch, takes his time, and slams an unstoppable shot across Kepa and into the bottom right.
55 min: Pulisic bears down on the Ajax box. Chelsea are five on three, but Pulisic makes the wrong decision, trying to release Azpilicueta on the overlap, but misjudging the pass. It’s easily intercepted. And it’s costly, because …
53 min: A cute shake of the hips from Jorginho in the centre circle. He draws a couple of defenders before slipping Abraham free! Abraham launches towards the top right; Onana tips around the post. Corner. It probably shouldn’t be, because Abraham looked a smidgen offside as he was sent clear, but the referee waves play on. From the set piece, James fires low towards the bottom right, but the angle’s way too tight and Onana isn’t getting beaten from there.
52 min: A little space for Azpilicueta out on the left. He curls into the mixer. Abraham rises highest, but there’s no whip on the cross, and he can’t generate enough power on his header to trouble Onana, who plucks from the sky with a yawn.
50 min: Pulisic finds a bit of space down the left but can’t locate a team-mate with his cross. James tries to keep things going, coming in from the other flank, and wins a corner that comes to nothing. But this is much better from Chelsea, who need something to happen fairly quickly.
49 min: Martinez has a cheeky little poke at Willian, who tries to retaliate. But Martinez, having irritated his opponent, isn’t interested in engaging. Saucy. Willian complains to the referee, but the official’s not interested.
47 min: Zouma beat four men on that run, dropping a shoulder to see off Blind before taking his shot. In the dugout, Frank Lampard can’t quite believe what he just witnessed. He enjoyed that.
Chelsea get the second half started. Reece James has come on for Marcos Alonso, the captain Cesar Azpilicueta shifting to left-back. And there’s nearly a sensational start to the half, Zouma channelling his inner Franz Beckenbauer, hip-shaking his way down the middle of the park, all the way to the edge of the box, before ballooning his shot miles over. What a run! What a shame that didn’t fly in.
Then again, we haven’t got everything wrong. “Your preview remark that Kevin Keegan would approve of Frank Lampard’s buccaneering blues (even with their leaky hull) certainly seems spot on so far,” opines Justin Kavanagh. “Only one team is going to win it now … and I’ve no idea which it is.” Simon McMahon adds: “After that first 45 minutes, I think Chelsea should be looking to partner Jeep Cherokee and Audi Q in central defence for the second half.” In the ever-upwardly mobile world of the Champions League, it was only a matter of time before “parking the SUV” became a thing.
Corrections and clarifications (pt.XXXVIII in an ongoing series). “It’s curious that Robert McAllister should pick up on the Volkswagen mix-up but not the fact that the player you said was Mickey Hazard is in fact Kevin McAllister,” writes Joe Sampson. Yes, well, there you have it. Throw in two own goals initially awarded to attacking players, plus some confusion over who conceded the penalty, and it’s been a banner day for your super soaraway MBM! Support our journalism, etc.
HALF TIME: Chelsea 1-3 Ajax
Promes curls in. Abraham heads over this time. And that’s the end of a highly entertaining and borderline surreal first half.
45 min: Azpilicueta is the latest player to go into the card-happy referee’s book, as he bundles Tagliafico over on the left touchline. A chance for Ajax to end the half as they started it.
44 min: Pulisic nearly breaks through a couple of challenges down the inside-left channel and into the box, but last man Blind closes the door just in time.
43 min: Alonso has a crack from distance, but it’s easily gathered by Onana.
41 min: Tomori slides into the back of Neres, scooting down the right. Neres is allowed to get up and play on, Tomori stopping and failing to play to the whistle. The ball’s worked towards Promes on the left. Promes should score, but doesn’t. A huge let-off for Chelsea, although not for Tomori, who is booked.
39 min: Uefa have given the third Ajax goal to poor old Kepa. So that’s two own goals by Chelsea, because the first has gone down as an Abraham og. Where is the love?
37 min: Frank Lampard looks beyond furious. He’ll be having words with Alonso, no doubt. There was absolutely no need to give that free kick away, though there’s no accounting for what happened next. That was such a stunning free kick. Did Ziyech mean it? Either way, it was an unplayable delivery.
GOAL! Chelsea 1-3 Ajax (Ziyech 35)
… in it goes! Ziyech viciously whips a cheeky one across the face of goal, over Kepa towards the top left! It’s going in … or maybe not. It hits the post, comes back towards the flailing keeper, and slams in off Kepa’s coupon! That may go down as an own goal, but it was such an outrageous effort that Ziyech deserves all the credit in the world!
35 min: Tadic is going nowhere by the right-hand corner flag. Alonso stupidly barges into his back and concedes a needless free kick. Ziyech to take. And …
33 min: Now Blind goes in the book, sticking a leg across Kovacic in midfield, right in front of the referee’s nose. Completely unnecessary, and now both of Ajax’s central defenders are teetering on the disciplinary tightrope. Take care.
32 min: Pulisic takes. It’s really poor, a high, aimless waft, and easy pickings for Onana in the Ajax goal.