Chelsea 1-1 Ajax (4-1 agg): Blues cruise to semifinal as first leg sting proves too much for Ajax at Stamford Bridge

With their three-goal cushion from the first leg remaining intact, Chelsea cruise through to the semifinal stage of the UEFA Women’s Champions League following a 1-1 draw with Ajax at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea slowly slipped through the gears before breaking the deadlock in SW6 after 33 minutes. In a similar fashion to the first leg, a string of chances between Ajax’s attackers lacked the much-needed end product, and the hosts were able to capitalise. 

Guro Reiten slipped Mayra Ramirez through on goal, and the 25-year-old made no mistake, with a cool finish into the bottom right corner. 

De Godendochters did manage to pull a goal back after the interval, with Chasity Grant taking advantage of some poor defending and slotting through the gloves of Zecira Musovic to add an equaliser on the night. 

As it happened

With a 3-0 advantage heading into the return leg, it was no surprise that the hosts started the game slightly too relaxed. An early short-corner routine from Ajax between Rosa van Gool and Tiny Hoekstra found captain Sherida Spitse with a free header, but the veteran midfielder headed just over and onto the roof of the net. 

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However, the Blues possess immense attacking threat in Guro Reiten and Aggie Beever-Jones, and the latter teed up a lovely cross for Erin Cuthbert minutes later, who could only direct an effort towards goal narrowly wide.

An intelligent spin from Ajax’s record goalscorer, Romée Leuchter, found herself away from Kadeisha Buchanan and with a goalscoring opportunity. However, the hat-trick hero from Ajax’s last game against Zwolle could only drill her effort wide of the target. 

The hosts responded with a threatening chance of their own, with Fran Kirby linking up with Aggie Beever-Jones on the right wing. The 20-year-old navigated through a sea of red and white shirts before playing into Reiten, but her effort curled agonisingly away from the target. 

With 25 minutes on the clock, Mayra Ramirez slipped Beever-Jones in behind the Ajax backline. The Chelsea academy product looked destined to place a shot past Regina van Eijk, but lost her footing, with Spitse able to make a quick recovery at the back. 

With Chelsea clearly on the front foot, they were able to find the match opener eight minutes later. Reiten collected the ball after an excellent sliding challenge from Cuthbert and threaded a neat through ball into Ramirez. The Colombian forward remained composed, slotting precisely past van Eijk and into the bottom right corner. 

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The hosts had an opportunity to double their lead five minutes from halftime, with Beever-Jones again delivering an inviting cross for Ramirez. The January addition managed to get her foot on the end of the cross but diverted it wide instead of rippling into the back of the net. 

The Dutch outfit had the first chance after the interval, with Leuchter’s snapshot from close range rolling comfortably into the gloves of Musovic. 

With the clock quickly ticking, Ajax retained possession but found it difficult to create opportunities, with Chelsea happy to sit off and wait for a mistake before pouncing. 

As the game started to turn flat, Ajax managed to pull a goal back through Chasity Grant. The 22-year-old evaded Buchanan with an intelligent run and latched onto an incisive pass from Hoekstra in midfield. Her effort deflected off Musovic’s outstretched gloves and into the back of the net. 

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Conscious of the Conti Cup Final awaiting the Blues on Sunday, Hayes turned to her bench immediately after the equaliser. Buchanan, Reiten and Ramirez were all given a rest with Catarina Macario, Jelena Čanković and Sjoeke Nüsken entering the fray. 

The goal built momentum for the visitors, and they were unlucky to not add a second to the scoresheet in the 80th minute. Leuchter collected the ball and turned away from Jess Carter, unleashing a beautiful left-footed curling effort heading for the top corner, but Musovic denied the Netherlands international at full stretch, tipping it out for a corner. 

Substitute Johanna Rytting Kaneryd wowed the crowd with the iconic ‘Cruijff’ chop against the side that Johan Cruijff made his name at, but Macario couldn’t provide her teammate with the ideal assist with her shot easily saved by van Eijk. 

Musovic was called into action again to deny Ajax, with substitute Danique Tolhoek striking the ball perfectly from distance, but the Swede was equal to it in between the sticks. 

Chelsea’s crazy month doesn’t end just yet, with a chance to win silverware in the Conti Cup on Sunday afternoon, against a familiar opponent in Arsenal, who are looking to retain the title.  As for de Godendochters, they will travel north to Hereenveen, looking to close the gap on FC Twente in the Eredivisie. 

The lineups

CHE: Musovic; Périsset, Carter, Buchanan, Lawrence; Cuthbert, Ingle, Kirby; Beever-Jones, Ramirez, Reiten

AJA: van Eijk; de Klonia, de Sanders, Spitse, Kardinaal; van de Velde, van Gool, Noordam; Hoekstra, Leuchter, Grant