Michy Batshuayi (right) and Christian Pulisic came off the bench and combined to score Chelsea’s winner Wednesday at Ajax. (Reuters/Piroschka Van De Wouw)
After beating Lille in France earlier this month, Chelsea continued its winning UEFA Champions League form away from home Wednesday as the Blues topped last season’s semifinalists Ajax 1-0 on Michy Batshuayi’s late goal in Amsterdam.
The decisive strike was set up by fellow substitute and United States national team headliner Christian Pulisic, who beat USMNT teammate Sergino Dest before delivering the pass that Batshuayi powered in off the underside of the crossbar (via Bleacher Report):
Ajax controlled the match for stretches of the first and second half. The had an apparent first-half goal called back by VAR for offside, and the hosts also saw Edson Alvarez’s shot ring off the Chelsea post in the second:
Still, Chelsea had scoring chances of their own before Batshuayi’s winner. They were the better team overall. And they were the far superior squad over the final 25 minutes or so of the match, when Frank Lampard went to his bench and summoned Batshuayi and Pulisic (plus Reece James in stoppage time) to replace the struggling Tammy Abraham and Willian.
The two former Borussia Dortmund teammates completely changed the match. A visibly tiring Ajax side had no answers for the injection of Pulisic’s pace and Batshuayi’s power up front. Pulisic was particularly effective, running rampant after entering in the 66th minute in what was easily his best performance for Chelsea since moving from the Bundesliga over the summer. The 21-year-old came close to scoring the winner himself, only to pull a right-footed shot wide of the target, and he set up another golden opportunity for Batshuayi that the Belgian fired over the bar.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter and sporting director Earnie Stewart, who were in attendance at the Johan Cruyff Arena, certainly had to like what they saw from Pulisic just over a week after he was subbed out of a 2-0 CONCACAF Nations League loss in Canada. The duo is also still trying to convince the Dutch-born Dest — who remains eligible to play for the Netherlands and is being wooed by Oranje manager Ronald Koeman — to play for the United States.
As for the Blues, their latest win away from Stamford Bridge extended their unbeaten streak to nine in European play. It was also Chelsea’s sixth consecutive win in all competitions. Lampard’s squad resumes its English Premier League schedule at Burnley on Saturday, a match that Pulisic and Batshuayi now have to be in contention to start following their midweek heroics in Holland.
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