Blues' babies pass huge Ajax test

Chelsea forward Michy Batshuayi celebrating after scoring the 86th-minute winner in Chelsea's 1-0 defeat of Ajax in the Champions League in Amsterdam on Wednesday. It was Chelsea's second straight Group H win. PHOTO: REUTERS
Chelsea forward Michy Batshuayi celebrating after scoring the 86th-minute winner in Chelsea's 1-0 defeat of Ajax in the Champions League in Amsterdam on Wednesday. It was Chelsea's second straight Group H win. PHOTO: REUTERS

Jubilant Lampard wants Chelsea to maintain new standard for success after stunning win

AMSTERDAM • Frank Lampard said Europa League champions Chelsea had provided the blueprint for future success with their display in the 1-0 Champions League win at Ajax Amsterdam on Wednesday, firing up hopes of qualification for the last 16.

Substitute Michy Batshuayi scored the goal late on, set up by another substitute Christian Pulisic, and the Chelsea manager said he was delighted with every aspect of the performance, from the defensive resilience to the way his team outmanoeuvred Ajax in the closing stages.

"It feels huge, which always scares me because there is a lot to do," Lampard said after the Group H win. "It is six points, halfway through a group now. I think we are entitled to be happy with the way we played and it is a bit of a blueprint for us."

Chelsea, who matched the feat of fellow Londoners Tottenham by winning at the Amsterdam Arena, are now top of the group, level on six points with Ajax.

Lampard added: "There are no excuses now to dip from that. It is the standard for us. Hopefully, we can get better but we can't drop that standard at this level of football.

"It answers questions because the younger players are still babies in Champions League minutes. This was a huge test for them and football gives you tests all the time.

"I don't want to say that they are there or this is it. But there was a balance tonight, with the young players who are learning quickly and the experienced players around them there to set examples."

Ajax, semi-finalists last season, had a goal by Quincy Promes chalked off for a marginal offside, and appeared set to close out the game for a draw.

But Pulisic, on a foraging run down the left in the 86th minute, cut back for Belgian Batshuayi to thump in the winner off the crossbar.

Lampard had words of praise for the American winger, the £58 million (S$101.9 million) summer signing from Borussia Dortmund who has struggled to establish himself.

"His performance tonight and his last couple of performances off the bench show something - he's made differences.

"I've basically tried to shut my ears to much of the outside talk. With a big player, there's a lot said and if you listen to it all the time, you can wonder what you're doing.

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    Michy Batshuayi's goals from the bench since the start of the 2016-17 season. The haul is four more than any other Chelsea player.

The manager acknowledged the weighty expectations placed on 21-year-old Pulisic to fill the boots of departed Blues favourite Eden Hazard.

"I understood the quality of Christian. I understood his young age and it's a big move for him to Chelsea. And I have other options for him in those areas. Let's give him full credit. "

In the group's other game, Jonathan Ikone's stoppage-time goal gave Lille a 1-1 home draw with Valencia, who had gone ahead through Denis Cheryshev just after the hour mark.

Valencia are third in the table, two points behind the leaders.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 25, 2019, with the headline 'Blues' babies pass huge Ajax test'. Print Edition | Subscribe