LONDON: A Stamford Bridge night of eight goals, two red cards, two penalties, two own goals and a nonsensically short four minutes of stoppage time ended in a 4-4 Champions League draw between Chelsea and Ajax Amsterdam.
Other action saw holders Liverpool defeat Genk by a surprisingly tight 2-1 at Anfield while Barcelona were held goalless at home by Slavia Prague.
Group H could not be more intense because Ajax and Chelsea are level on seven points with Valencia who beat Lille 4-1 in Spain.
Having trailed 4-1, the Blues battled back to level the scores and then Cesar Azpilicueta thought he had scored a winner, only for VAR to step in.
Chelsea’s 1-0 win in Amsterdam last month had put them in control of the group but Ajax looked set to wrest it back following a lightning start.
Ajax fans were barred from attending following crowd trouble during their win over Valencia, although that did not stop hundreds from travelling to west London anyway.
The few that did make it in were celebrating inside two minutes, only to be silenced 60 seconds later in a breakneck opening.
Ziyech’s swirling free-kick flew over Kepa and hit the inside of the post, before smacking the keeper full in the face and bouncing into the net.
It was a freakish goal but Ziyech’s delivery was superb, and for the third time in little more than half an hour Chelsea’s inability to defend crosses had cost them.
Things got even bleaker for the Blues 10 minutes into the second half. Ziyech found Donny Van de Beek in the area and the midfielder was given the time and space to turn and fizz a low shot past Kepa.
Chelsea reduced the deficit to two again when Pulisic’s cross was prodded towards goal by Abraham and Azpilicueta made sure at the far post.
Then in another crazy 60 seconds Daley Blind was shown a second yellow card for fouling Abraham and Joel Veltman followed him down the tunnel for handling Callum Hudson-Odoi’s shot.
Stamford Bridge was rocking as Jorginho rolled in his second penalty of the night, and it was pandemonium moments later when sub Reece James lashed home from a corner to equalise.
VAR then ruled out Azpilicueta’s dramatic late ‘winner’, spotting a handball among the pinball in the Ajax box, and visiting keeper Andre Onana denied Michy Batshuayi at the death as the Dutch champions held on.
Liverpool in command
Liverpool did the bare minimum to beat Genk 2-1 with a performance which was played out in the shadow of the looming visit of title rivals Manchester City.
This game was almost an inconvenience, considering what is at stake on Sunday, with Jurgen Klopp’s side looking to extend their six-point lead at the top of the Premier League, and for long periods it seemed the players viewed it as such.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s first goal at Anfield since his double in the 4-0 comeback win over Barcelona in last season’s semi-final second leg should have been the platform for a comfortable win over Belgians.
However, the players took their eyes off the ball, allowing Mbwana Samatta to equalise just before half-time.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s third goal against this opposition and fourth in four games, as many as in his previous 45 appearances for the club, sent Liverpool top of their Champions League group knowing an Anfield win over Napoli will send them into the knockout phase with a match to spare.
Klopp made six changes, resting key players Andy Robertson, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Dejan Lovren – Jordan Henderson was missing because of illness – for the weekend.
If Klopp’s team selection had an eye on the weekend it appeared the players’ minds were also on it as they played the first half like a training exercise and were punished for it.
Having taken a 14th-minute lead through Wijnaldum’s clever strike, hooking the ball over his shoulder at the near post when James Milner’s cross cannoned off a couple of defenders, they appeared to take their foot off the gas and go through the motions.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored twice in the meeting two weeks ago, was surprisingly given the number nine position vacated by the rested Firmino.
He threatened a couple of times, first shaping to shoot before playing in Naby Keita for a double chance which was kept out by goalkeeper Gaeten Coucke and his defence.
The England midfielder then popped up on the other side and, after looking to drill one in with his right foot, he cut back onto his left, giving Genk time to crowd him out.
But his experiment through the centre lasted only until half-time when Klopp moved Salah to the middle and switched Divock Origi to the right.
Salah had looked most threatening when appearing in the central channel in the first half, his best chance flashing wide of the far post after his first touch from Milner’s cross had taken out the whole of Genk’s defence.
But, with the team playing well below their usual tempo, concentration lapsed and, when Fabinho lost Samatta at a corner, the Tanzanian slipped in between Oxlade-Chamberlain and Milner to head in at the near post.
Klopp’s tactical switch at the interval, after presumably giving the players a few choice words about their lack of intensity, paid off within eight minutes.
Origi’s cross was held up and then laid off by Salah for Oxlade-Chamberlain to fire home left-footed as pace and purpose returned to their game.
It was dialled down again with 10 minutes remaining – even after the introduction of Robertson and Mane – as City began to loom into view, although not for Alisson Becker who had to parry a shot from Bryan Heynen.