Michy Batshuayi’s late strike earned Chelsea a 1-0 win at Ajax in Wednesday’s Champions League Group H encounter in Amsterdam.
The Belgium striker thumped home fellow substitute Christian Pulisic’s low cross with just four minutes remaining at Johan Cruijff ArenA to earn the Blues back-to-back way wins in the competition.
Batshuayi had earlier wasted a gilt-edged chance for Frank Lampard’s side in a game that had been struggling to get going.
Ajax will feel aggrieved not to have taken at least a point, though, with Quincy Promes on the wrong end of the narrowest of offside calls and Edson Alvarez hitting the post in the second half.
Joel Veltman struck narrowly wide of the right post from 25 yards and Donny van de Beek saw a sweetly hit volley blocked by Kurt Zouma as Ajax started with purpose.
Chelsea gained a foothold, though, and Mason Mount’s low drive was well parried by Andre Onana before Callum Hudson-Odoi flashed an effort wide from the left of the box.
The Blues were spared going behind by the narrowest of margins when VAR ruled Promes was offside by a matter of inches after he turned in Hakim Ziyech’s deflected shot.
Ajax delivered another almighty scare on the hour when Alvarez’s diving header from Promes’ corner cannoned off the right-hand post.
Chelsea really ought to have made Ajax pay when Batshuayi, who had only just replaced Tammy Abraham, blazed over when Mount’s shot deflected kindly into his path.
But Batshuayi did not make the same mistake twice.
Pulisic did brilliantly to get to the left byline and, although the cross was behind him, Batshuayi thumped a left-footed strike off the underside of the crossbar to secure three vital away points.
What does it mean? Away-day successes could prove crucial for Chelsea
An opening-round defeat to Valencia was not the start Lampard would have envisaged.
But two away wins, their first consecutive victories on their travels in Europe’s premier competition since 2013, puts the Blues on six points from three matches.
Ajax, who had won their first two games, are not sitting quite as comfy as they were in Group H.
Batshuayi stakes his claim
Batshuayi has largely played second fiddle to Abraham this season. But with Chelsea’s first-choice striker enduring a subdued evening, Lampard turned to the Belgian to find an answer and he delivered in brilliant fashion.
Creative forces Tadic and Hudson-Odoi not on it
Neither side can be faulted for their efforts or attempts to play attractive football, but it was not the best of nights for either team’s creative forces.
Ajax captain Dusan Tadic had the fewest touches of any player in a low-key first half and was fortunate to escape with just a yellow for a forearm into the face of Willian, while Hudson-Odoi was guilty of several misplaced passes and will have been relieved by Batshuayi’s late intervention.
Key Opta facts
– Ajax suffered their first Champions League group stage defeat since November 2014, ending a run of nine matches unbeaten at this stage.
– Chelsea have kept consecutive clean sheets in all competitions under Frank Lampard for the first time.
– Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Batshuayi has scored nine goals as a substitute for Chelsea in all competitions – four more than any other Blues player.
– Despite only appearing as a 71st minute substitute, Batshuayi had more shots than any other player in the match (4), including scoring the winning goal.
– Hudson-Odoi (18y 350d) became the youngest player to start a Champions League game for Chelsea since Josh McEachran (17y 282d) in December 2010.
Chelsea are back in Premier League action at Burnley on Saturday when they go in search of a seventh straight win, with their next Champions League assignment being the return clash with Ajax on November 5. The Amsterdam side welcome Feyenoord on Sunday.