Chelsea and Ajaz played out a classic, while Liverpool outlasted Racing Genk 2-1 in their respective Champions League matches on Wednesday. At Nou Camp, Barcelona were held to a goalless draw by Slavia Prague as the Spanish giants failed to break the deadlock despite Lionel Messi and Arturo Vidal coming close on a couple occasions.
Chelsea produced an admirable performance, coming back from being 1-4 down to drawing the match 4-4 in a game that had everything – tackles, penalties, red cards, late goals. Ajaz roared to an insurmountable three-goal advantage with Tammy Abraham scoring in the second minute before Jorginho converted a penalty two minutes later to square things up.
But Quincy Promes and Kepa Arrizabalaga scored in a span of 15 minutes to take the lead to 3-1. After the half-time, when Donny van de Beek found the back of the net, Chelsea were pretty much out of it. But what transpired from there onward was nothing short of inspirational. Cesar Azpilicueta tapped home for Chelsea in the 63rd minute before the game turned on its head.
Five minutes later, Daley Blind received a second yellow card and was sent off. Not even a minute after Ajax were down to 10, Joel Veltmen handed the ball inside the box for the team’s second red. Jorginho converted a penalty for the second successful time in the 71st minute. With a two-man advantage and a one-goal deficit, Chelsea pumped a final equaliser three minutes later with Reece James applying the finishing touches after Tammy Abraham hit the bar.
Chelsea almost scored a fifth goal and bagged a sensational win but Azpilicueta’s goal was ruled out following a VAR decision.
At Anfield, Liverpool limped past Genk with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s second-half goal proving the winner, putting Liverpool on the brink of knockouts. Liverpool, who fielded a weaker side ahead of Sunday’s Premier League tie against Manchester City laboured past the Greek side despite looking to be in control for the most part of the match.
It too the visiting team 14 minutes to draw first blood when a low hit from James Milner ricocheted off the goalkeeper for Georginio Wijnaldum to capitalise on. Against the run of play, fur minutes before half-time, Liverpool conceded an equaliser with Ally Mbwana Samata heading Bryan Heynan’s cross into the goal. However, soon into the second half, Oxlade-Chamberlain collected a pass from Mo Salah and get the ball low to beat keeper Geatan Coucke.
“Every game is tough in the Champions League. It’s a boring saying but it’s true. We need to finish the job now. We are in a good position,” left-back Milner said.
At Camp Nou, hosts Barcelona were left frustrated in the absence of striker Luis Suarez. Messi, for the first time since Champions League 2012, did not provide an assist or strike, had the best Barca chance when he hit the cross bar. Despite the patchy draw, Barcelona lead the group with eight points, while Slavia are down at the bottom with two.
“We had chances to score but the ball wouldn’t go in,” Barca defender Gerard Pique said. “Results aren’t going our way in these last two games, and when you go two games without winning at Barca the fans expect more because expectations are so high.
“It’s difficult to say right now but there have been times when we’ve not looked good in the past and we’ve ended up winning trophies. With Luis Enrique it looked like things weren’t working for the first six months and then we won the Treble. I would ask for a little patience. I know the fans want more, we understand that, but we’re working hard to find the solutions. Not so much in terms of results, but in terms of how we’re playing.”