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"Such stories are only written by football". This phrase is used too arbitrarily, often for unusual, but more common happenings on football pitches around the world. But what happened in the 68th minute in the 4: 4 in the Champions League between Chelsea and Ajax Amsterdam, was in fact an extraordinary process in professional football. Such stories are really only written by football.
Ajax stunned 4-2 at Stamford Bridge, pressure from the hosts increased after César Azpilicueta's second goal, but the semi-finalist of the past Champions League season had their next surprise win in their hands. "We controlled the game," said Ajax coach Erik ten Hag after the game, "and then everything changed in a moment."
Eddie Keogh / REUTERS
Erik ten Hag (left) sees himself and his team treated unfairly
This moment, described by the FC Bayern München coached, took four seconds. Center-back Daley Blind was out of whack after a duel with former Dortmund Christian Pulisic and was therefore late in the next direct duel with Tammy Abraham. Blind fouled (67 minutes, 20 seconds), but referee Gianluca Rocchi did not interrupt the attack but let the advantage pass.
Chelsea remained in the possession of the ball. Substitute Callum Hudson-Odoi took the ball on the left. The winger, who was also on Bayern's wish list, moved into the center of the penalty area. Joël Veltman, the Dutchman's second central defender, was out of the way, unable to get his hand in time (67:24). Four seconds had passed between these two actions - for Ajax tipped in these seconds, the entire game.
Ajax loses both center-backs in an attack
Rocchi whistled the attack after Veltmans hand play, but first took care of Blind and his foul on Abraham. The 29-year-old had seen a yellow card in the first half for a foul on Mateo Kovacic and Rocchi now brought out the second warning and dismissed Blind justified with yellow-red (67:32). It was followed by the now common discussions of the Ajax players with the referee, in the meantime, Rocchi was confirmed his impression of Veltmans hand play by the video referee Paolo Valeri.
Here is the rating is not as clear as at Blinds Platzverweis. Standing about eight yards from Hudson-Odoi, Veltman saw the ball come unobstructed and could not turn his body or the arm close to his body. Many defenders defend such situations now with the arms on the back, nevertheless this was neither a clear penalty nor a clear yellow card. Rocchi decided differently, because he saw a promising attack prevented by hand play.
The Italian referee also showed yellow and red (68:31) to Veltman, who had been warned in the 31st minute. Ajax lost both center-backs in an attack. "That was a mistake," Ten Hag said. "Yes, the ball comes to hand, but what should he do? It was not a handball game, not a warning, but we have to accept it." The subsequent penalty turned Jorginho to 3: 4 (70:29), in the following disorder, the 19-year-old Reece James met after a corner with a right-footed to equalize (73:04).
David Klein / REUTERS
The youngest scorer in Chelsea's Champions League history: Reece James
In double deficit and with a remaining playing time of more than a quarter of an hour, many expected a complete slump in the Ajax team. However, the Amsterdam team caught the ball and substitutes Edson Álvarez (86 ') and Noussair Mazraoui (88') even had chances to score fifth.
For Chelsea coach Frank Lampard, the draw felt like a victory. "Of course we have to get better, but we've shown will and character to achieve a lot, and I love that - and the fans love that," said Lampard. "I said to the guys at break that it will go 4: 4."
In Group H everything is still open after the draw. Ajax lead the table with seven points and a better goal difference, but Chelsea and Valencia CF (4: 1 against Lille) equal points on points two and three. Chelsea will play in Valencia on 27 November and Ajax will play in Lille. The decision is likely to be made on the final day of the match (10 December), when the Londoners welcome Lille and meet Amsterdam at Valencia. "We still have everything in our own hands," Ten Hag said. "If we show such achievements, we will certainly progress."
Chelsea FC - Ajax Amsterdam 4: 4 (1: 3)
0: 1 Abraham (2nd / owner)
1: 1 Jorginho (5th / penalties)
1: 2 promes (20th)
1: 3 Kepa (35th / owner)
1: 4 Van de Beek (55.)
2: 4 Azpilicueta (63rd)
3: 4 Jorginho (71./Elfmeter)
4: 4 James (74.)
Chelsea: Kepa - Azpilicueta, Zouma, Tomori, Alonso (46th James) - Kovacic (87th Batshuayi), Jorginho, Mount (60th Hudson - Odoi) - Willian, Abraham, Pulisic
Ajax: Onana - Mazraoui, Veltman, Blind, Tagliafico - Van de Beek, Martinez - Neres (72nd Schuurs), Ziyech (72nd Álvarez), Promes - Tadic
Referee: Rocchi (Italy)
Yellow Cards: Azpilicueta, Tomori - Promes
Yellow-Red: Blind, Veltman