A late strike from substitute Michy Batshuayi helped Chelsea to come away with the win at the Amsterdam Arena to cap off another impressive victory for Frank Lampard’s young outfit.
Chelsea started off the group with a home loss to Valencia. They have since manged to gain back-to-back away wins to get their campaign back on track. This has allowed them to gain control of Group H at the midway point.
Ajax will, meanwhile, be cursing their luck after another home loss to a London side. They were highly frustrated after a number of tight calls, especially in the first half. They had a penalty appeal turned down and a goal disallowed for a tight offside call.
Frank Lampard stuck with his faith in his youthful squad. Tammy Abraham was tasked with leading the line ahead of the likes of Oliver Giroud and Michy Batshuayi. He was backed up with the likes of Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
The home team introduced Edson Alvarez and Nicolas Tagliafico. Klaas Van Huntelaar and Noussair Mazraoui both dropping to the bench.
This confidence was clear to see in the opening spell. The home side were predominately on the front foot pushing back their visitors.
Hudson-Odoi had a corner punched away by Andre Onana and they immediately set about on the attack. The ball was played into the path of Donny Van De Beek.
His shot hit the thigh of Marcus Alonso and bounced up to hit his arm. The Ajax players and fans screamed for a penalty, but the referee thought otherwise. Dusan Tadic being adjudged to have been initially offside in the build-up.
That was caused by Fikayo Tomori being robbed in midfield. The young defender attempted to make up for his mistake moments later, but his header was misdirected from a corner. Kurt Zouma was also causing anxiety when he came through the back of his opponent.
The nervousness of the Chelsea backline was being promoted by the aggressive pressing game of the Ajax forward players. They seized upon any loose ball whenever the away side tried to play out form the back.
The Blues had not really been in the game to this point but Abraham sought to fix that. He won the ball in midfield and played the ball wide to Hudson-Odoi before.
The winger tried to come inside his cross was blocked. The resulting set-piece created a chance for Mason Mount. His effort was saved though.
A quick cross into the box seemed to have taken the Chelsea defenders by surprise soon after and Quincy Promes looked to have continued in his scoring streak. The referee sought the consultation of VAR and it was ruled to have been marginally offside.
The home players argued it had taken a slight touch off Zouma on the way but to no avail. Promes was again cursing his luck as he was denied by a last-ditch tackle by Tomori at the back post as the sides went in scoreless at the break.
The away side came out in the second and began to exert a degree of control in the game. An Ajax corner came to nothing and when Kovacic set Willian away, the winger burst into open field. Only a cynical drag back from Tadic denied him a clear-cut opportunity. He received a share of abuse from the home support as a result.
Abraham was next to be thwarted. He set up on the shoulder of Blind as Chelsea gained possession, but the eventual pass was misplaced and too late.
Ajax then came closest to hitting the front. A corner was swung in and Edson Alvarez got in front of Alonso who was marking him.
His header was directed toward the bottom corner but only managed to hit the post and go wide. It was picked up again by Blind whose shot was comfortably saved.
Jorginho and Kovacic were beginning to run matters for the away side as the game went on. More and more they both picked up the ball and drove Chelsea on again.
A number of substitutions occurred as both managers tried to get the necessary breakthrough to win the game.
Christian Pulisic and Michy Batshuayi combined for a chance for the latter. The less said the better about the final execution from the latter.
Just as it seemed the game was destined to finish scoreless, Chelsea struck for the lead. Pulisic gathered the ball and immediately strove to take on his man. His cross was into the path of Alonso who stepped over it and Batshuayi slammed it home.
They now top the group ahead of Ajax. Both are set to face each other again in the return game at Stamford Bridge next time out.
Ajax: André Onana; Sergino Dest, Nicolas Tagliafico, Joel Veltman; (Klaas Van Huntelaar, 89), Danny Blind, Edson Alvarez (Siem De Jong, 89), Lisandro Martinez; Quincy Promes (Neres Campos, 74) Dusan Tadic, Donny Van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech.
Subs not used: Semedo Varela, Perr Schuurs, Razvan Marin, Noussair Mazraoui.
Booked: Dusan Tadic (49), Lisandro Martinez (65).
Sent off: None.
Chelsea: Kepa Arrizabalaga; Fikayo Tomori, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Kurt Zouma; Mason Mount, Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho Frello Filho; Callum Hudson-Odoi (Reece James, 90), Willian Borges da Silva (Christian Pulisic, 66), Tammy Abraham (Michy Batshuayi, 71).
Subs not used: Olivier Giroud, Willy Caballero, Emerson, Billy Gilmour.
Booked: Kurt Zouma (84).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Ovidiu Hategan.
ExtraTime.ie Player of the Match: Mateo Kovacic (Chelsea).