Chelsea battled back from three goals down to earn a 4-4 draw in Tuesday's thrilling Champions League clash with Ajax, who were made to pay for two red cards at Stamford Bridge as the hosts were denied a dramatic winner by VAR.

Frank Lampard's side conceded three first-half goals in the competition for the first time as Tammy Abraham and Kepa Arrizabalaga both put into their own net, either side of Jorginho and Quincy Promes netting.

Ajax opened up a 4-1 lead through Donny van de Beek early in the second half and were still 4-2 in front - Cesar Azpilicueta pulling one back - when Daley Blind and Joel Veltman were dismissed in the space of a minute.

Jorginho scored his second penalty of the match to reduce the arrears and substitute Reece James struck 16 minutes from time to leave Chelsea, who had a late Azpilicueta goal ruled out by VAR, above Ajax at the top of Group H.

Frank Lampard believes the next step for his youthful Chelsea side is to sustain their performance levels across the full 90 minutes of matches.

Chelsea picked up their fifth Premier League win in a row on Saturday with a nervy 2-1 victory against bottom of the table Watford at Vicarage Road.

The Blues looked comfortable after opening up a two-goal lead through Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic, only for Gerard Deulofeu to pull one back from the penalty spot 10 minutes from time.

And if not for a last-second save from Kepa Arrizabalaga to deny fellow goalkeeper Ben Foster the home side would have snatched a point, which Lampard admits is an area of concern.

"At times we are certainly producing some of the form that I want from us," he said.

"Our work off the ball in some games where we have been pushed hard, like Ajax away and Liverpool, has really pleased me.

"They have worked on that in training to a level where they are fit enough. In periods of games I am pleased with the way we combine and switch the ball. If I've got a gripe it is that we are not sustaining that for long enough at a time."

Chelsea also conceded twice in the final stages of last week's 4-2 win at Burnley and Lampard added: "Maybe it's football. Liverpool go away [to Aston Villa] and are behind for long periods, Manchester City, too.

"So maybe I'm being a bit demanding. You have to respect the opponents. It is not always as easy as it appears and football will always be a work in progress.

"We have young players who have been out on loan who have come in and are working with senior players, so things will always take time to get where you want them to get to."

Chelsea's players were aggrieved with referee Anthony Taylor's decision to award a penalty following a lengthy VAR review after Jorginho was adjudged to have fouled Deulofeu.

Captain Cesar Azpilicueta is unsure if the technology is being used in the correct manner and wants referees to make more use of pitchside monitors.

"We have a lot of meetings about the VAR," he said. "There is a screen on the pitch for the ref to look and see why he made the decision not to whistle for a penalty.

"We are not using the system in the right way, which is something to help the referees make the right decision. They are human, the same as players.

"We make mistakes but why not use the whole system in the right way? That's my big point in this case and in other cases that we have seen. It could help."

Cesar Azpilicueta called for Chelsea to be realistic with Callum Hudson-Odoi but acknowledged the teenage winger is set to be a "massive player" for the club.

Hudson-Odoi has reclaimed his place in the Chelsea team after returning from a ruptured Achilles, starring against Newcastle United last week and then making his first Champions League start away at Ajax.

The England international was less effective in Amsterdam on Wednesday than he had been in recent weeks, but Frank Lampard's men earned a precious 1-0 away win.

Club captain Azpilicueta was not concerned by a quiet showing from Hudson-Odoi, recognising the inconsistency that comes with a young player who still has just six Premier League starts to his name.

Azpilicueta said: "We don't have to forget that Callum is 18 years old and his progression in the last 12-15 months, with an injury in between... We have to be realistic.

"The way he worked for the team, the way he always showed the ability to get the ball, to dribble, not to have any fear to hide in between the full back.

"I think Callum is a very important player for us. He's going to be massive player in the future for Chelsea but we have to accept the progression.

"Still, to be 18 years old and the way he's playing is amazing. The only way I can see is by his work rate going up and improving."

Hudson-Odoi is one of a number of academy graduates now in the Chelsea first team, with Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham earning international call-ups this season while Reece James is also breaking through.

Azpilicueta has been pleased with both the way the young stars are adapting to their new demands and with the support they are receiving from more experienced team-mates.

"The players who have more experience in these games try to help the young lads," he said. "For some of them, it's the first year in the Premier League, the first year in the Champions League.

"So we have to be a help for all of them, use our experience to keep them confident and make them express themselves the way they have been doing in the academy.

"It is very important for them to feel confident. It is the way we are working.

"But a lot of credit goes to them because they are good lads, they listen, they want to improve in every training session and learn from the more experienced players, the manager and the staff. It is the right way to keep improving."

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard admits Ross Barkley's injury "looks a bit nasty" but he is waiting for a doctor's assessment on Sunday.

Barkley was forced off after 43 minutes of Saturday's 1-0 Premier League defeat of Newcastle United, hobbling off the pitch with an ankle problem to be replaced by Mateo Kovacic.

The England international, who started in place of the injured N'Golo Kante, is now expected to have tests ahead of Wednesday's Champions League trip to face Ajax.

Cesar Azpilicueta also suffered a knock in the closing stages, but Lampard is hopeful the defender has not sustained any serious damage.

Speaking after the match, which was settled by Marcos Alonso's 73rd-minute strike, Lampard told reporters: "I think Azpi was alright, he didn't say anything when he came off.

"Ross turned his ankle. It looks a bit nasty at first glance, but the doctor wants to have a look at it tomorrow. I have no more on that."

When asked if he could be fit to face Ajax, Lampard replied: "I genuinely don't know. We will assess tomorrow."

Chelsea's win, their fifth in a row in all competitions, means they are fourth in the Premier League after nine matches.

Cesar Azpilicueta has full confidence in Ross Barkley despite his late penalty miss in Chelsea's 1-0 Champions League defeat to Valencia.

Rodrigo Moreno's goal looked set to be cancelled out when the referee awarded Frank Lampard's Chelsea a penalty following a VAR check on Daniel Wass' handball. 

Barkley, who had only been on the pitch for seven minutes, stepped up for the spot-kick, taking rank over Chelsea team-mates Jorginho, Willian and Olivier Giroud in London on Tuesday.

Willian and Jorginho, in particular, were speaking with Barkley before he took the penalty, which clipped the crossbar on its way over in the Group H opener.

But Chelsea captain Azpilicueta insisted his team-mates were simply encouraging Barkley, not debating over who should take responsibility.

"Ross is one of the best penalty takers in the team, he's one of the players that take them," Azpilicueta said.

"He had the confidence to shoot, he has taken a few penalties which he has scored.

"We had more players with great capabilities from penalties but he had good confidence to shoot, he was unlucky to hit the bar and obviously he is disappointed to not get the goal to at least get a point.

"They were encouraging [him] to have the confidence to score, he had high expectation and high confidence to score, so we tried to give him the best conditions because we knew it would be decisive, sometimes it happens. We are lucky we have a lot of penalty takers."

Mason Mount's early injury added further frustration to a disappointing night for Chelsea, with the midfielder likely facing a race against time to be fit to feature against Liverpool – who were beaten 2-0 by Napoli – in the Premier League on Sunday.

Azpilicueta, however, firmly believes in the project Lampard – who is yet to secure his first home win as Chelsea head coach – is trying to implement at Stamford Bridge, despite a lack of experience within the Blues' ranks.

"We are trying to build something special, we know we have a young squad, young players coming through and experienced players in the team to try and create something for the future," Azpilicueta added.

"We are Chelsea, we also need to win and win every game every few days we play. When we don't win we get frustrated, disappointed and it's a lesson we have to learn as a team."

The transfer window may be closed but the rumours do not stop!

Christian Eriksen was unable to secure a move away from Tottenham prior to Monday's deadline.

Since then, the likes of Atletico Madrid, Manchester United and Inter have been linked to the Spurs star.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETICO PREPARING JANUARY MOVE FOR ERIKSEN

Atletico Madrid are set to return for Tottenham's Christian Eriksen in January, according to AS.

Eriksen was linked to the likes of Atletico, Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United but a move did not materialise.

Now, Atletico, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly monitoring the situation as Eriksen prepares to become a free agent at the end of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to the Mirror, Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic is set to be offered a chance to move to the Premier League. The Croatian veteran was linked to Manchester United but a move failed to transpire prior to the transfer window closing.

- LaLiga pair Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao are keeping tabs on Chelsea and Spain full-back Cesar Azpilicueta, reports the Mirror. It comes amid concerns the Spaniard could lose his spot in the Chelsea XI to Reece James.

- Brazilian side Flamengo are interested in signing free agent Claudio Marchisio, says Gazzetta dello Sport. Former Juventus star Marchisio is without a club since leaving Zenit. Flamengo were also close to luring Mario Balotelli before he opted for Brescia.

- The Daily Mail claims Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola wants to sign a new defender in January. The report comes after Aymeric Laporte's knee injury left City with just two fit centre-backs – John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi.

- David Beckham's Inter Miami are set to sign River Plate midfielder Exequiel Palacios, according to TNT Sports. The expansion franchise – who are backed by the former Manchester United star and will enter MLS in 2020 – have also been linked to Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani and Barcelona forward Luis Suarez.

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta insists the young players in the squad are trusted to deliver despite the 4-0 thrashing by Manchester United on Sunday.

Frank Lampard's first Premier League game in charge of the Blues ended in the worst opening-day defeat in the club's history, with Marcus Rashford's double and strikes from Anthony Martial and Daniel James sealing their fate at Old Trafford.

Former Chelsea and United manager Jose Mourinho questioned Lampard's team selection, with Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham starting while Olivier Giroud and N'Golo Kante were on the bench.

Lampard insisted his choices for the starting line-up were hampered by injury concerns and felt the result was harsh on his side, especially after a positive first-half performance.

Azpilicueta also believes it would be unfair to suggest Chelsea's youngsters are not ready for the step up to regular Premier League football.

"We trust in them," said the 29-year-old. "We know that we have a fantastic academy and they have had fantastic experience on loan. If they are here it is because they deserve to be. They are fighting in every training session.

"All the boys, they train to play for the Chelsea first team since they were young and now we have a massive opportunity to create a fantastic group, to learn from every game. Obviously everyone would like to start in a better way, but we have to face the reality and become stronger from it."

Azpilicueta is eager to move on quickly from the defeat, the heaviest for a Chelsea boss in their first competitive game at the helm since Danny Blanchflower's side lost 7-2 to Middlesbrough in December 1978.

Next up for the Blues is a UEFA Super Cup clash with Liverpool in Istanbul on Wednesday, with Azpilicueta keen to show they have learned from their Old Trafford errors.

"We know that Chelsea always fight for everything," he said. "When you don't win, the questions around get more and more, but we have to cope with it.

"We have to learn from the game. We know that we can improve. We have to face it, take the responsibility and move forward.

"We have a trophy to fight for against a good team and we have to be ready for it."

Frank Lampard will set the right example for the Chelsea squad following his return to Stamford Bridge as head coach, according to Cesar Azpilicueta.

Lampard's Chelsea tenure began with a 1-1 draw against Bohemians in the Blues' opening pre-season game in Ireland on Wednesday.

Chelsea's record goalscorer took over as boss on July 4, following an impressive debut season in coaching at the helm of Derby County.

And Azpilicueta has hailed the impact his former team-mate has had on Chelsea's squad, acknowledging that displays under former coach Maurizio Sarri were not always up to scratch.

"It is true that last season, for periods, we didn’t give the fans what they expected," Azpilicueta said. "Our performances were not good enough.

"We turned it around and won the Europa League but you can see that this season all of the fans are very happy we have the gaffer back at the Bridge.

"Now we have to give it back by working hard on the pitch, by winning games. We are very happy to have him with us. I can’t add anything to his career at Chelsea as a player.

"But, over his first week in training, I’ve seen the way he wants to play, the way he wants us to feel the shirt, the way he wants us to train every day, it is something special."

Azpilicueta expanded on his plaudits, adding that Lampard's commitment to Chelsea during his playing career sets the perfect example for the current players to follow.

"He was here for a very long and very successful period, and always set an example: how he wanted to break every record or improve himself in every session," Azpilicueta said.

"We have to be grateful and feel the passion for the shirt. We are very excited and the only way we can carry it on is by winning together, getting the feeling back of being all together as a club.

"We have to take responsibility and know that there are a lot of things [going on] around us, but we have to work hard to get better."

Lampard's first competitive game will be against Manchester United on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, before Chelsea face Champions League winners Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup on August 14.

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