Chelsea manager Frank Lampard heaped praise on Reece James following last night’s 4-4 draw against Ajax at Stamford Bridge.
In what was surely the best game of the competition so far, it rained goals in London, with the first coming after only two minutes courtesy of Tammy Abraham’s unfortunate own goal.
However, Chelsea were awarded a penalty soon after and Jorginho found the net to make it 1-1. Ajax then fought back hard and took a 4-1 lead thanks to goals from Quincy Promes and Donny van de Beek while goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga was the second Blues player to score an own goal on the night.
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Cesar Azpilicueta netted his first of the season to make the score 2-4 before the visitors were reduced to nine men following the dismissals of Daley Blind and Joel Veltman. Chelsea then won another penalty and Jorginho lessened the deficit before James netted the equaliser.
The 19-year-old became the youngest player to net a Champions League goal for the Blues at 19 years and 332 days, surpassing Arjen Robben who was just a few months shy of 21 when he scored against CSKA Moscow in 2004.
Following the match, Lampard was all praise for James and feels that he can become a top player for Chelsea. Speaking to the club’s official site, the 41-year-old said: “Reece is a fantastic young player. He gives what you saw, and he will get much better because he’s 19. I felt we needed to change to get a bit more for us on the right-hand side. Reece can deliver crosses with great quality. He’s powerful and joins in. He knows we have Azpi there, our captain, but there are things we can do to change sometimes.
“He’s going to be a top player for the club. He’s got great quality. When you look at the modern full-back, the requirement to go forward and be a threat, hopefully Reece can do that for us.”
James is another example of how beneficial a loan spell at the Championship can turn out to be. The 19-year-old impressed at Wigan Athletic last season and has so far done well in the opportunities Lampard has given him this season.
So far, James has two goals and an assist to his name in eight appearances across all competitions. He may not start in Saturday’s fixture against Crystal Palace but Lampard may well include him on the bench and could do well to give him some playing time as a substitute.