Champions League: Chelsea salvages draw with epic comeback against nine-man Ajax (highlights)

Reece James (left) scored Chelsea's late equalizer in Tuesday's 4-4 tie with Ajax. (James Williamson/Getty)
Reece James (left) scored Chelsea's late equalizer in Tuesday's 4-4 tie with Ajax. (James Williamson/Getty)

The UEFA Champions League is a near constant source of drama, and always has been. But even in the long and colorful history of Europe’s vaunted top club competition, one would be hard-pressed to remember a crazier match than this one.

Two weeks after Chelsea went to Amsterdam and upset last year’s semifinalist Ajax, the Dutch titans jumped out to a three-goal lead in the Group H rematch before being shown two red cards as Chelsea roared back for a 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge.

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Chelsea conceded three times in the first half — two of them own goals — for the first time ever in Champions League play. It took just 106 seconds for the hosts to fall behind, when striker Tammy Abraham accidentally deflected Quincy Promes’ free kick past Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga (via Bleacher Report):

The fluky early tally foreshadowed the madness to come. The match had barely restarted before more drama hit, this time at the other end of the field.

United States national team star Christian Pulisic, making his fourth consecutive start for Frank Lampard’s side, darted into the box and took a kick to the leg, setting up a penalty that Jorginho deposited into the net to bring the contest back on level terms:

The equalizer could have resulted in a letdown for Ajax, especially with its traveling supporters banned by UEFA from attending Tuesday’s contest in London after crowd trouble during the club’s trip to Valencia last month.

But the visitors looked anything but shaken, and with Lampard’s young side failing to produce any real momentum, Promes fired his team back in front.

Kepa was “credited” with Chelsea’s second own goal after Hakim Ziyech’s curling free kick came off the post, hit him in the face, and fell across the line:

When Donny van de Beek added a fourth in the 54th minute, it looked like Ajax would get revenge for Chelsea’s Oct. 23 upset.

But Cesar Azpilicueta pulled one back for the hosts, and then all hell broke loose. The decisive sequence occurred with just over 20 minutes to play, when Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi awarded Chelsea its second penalty of the night and sent off both Ajax central defenders, Daley Blind and Joel Veltman — Blind for a second bookable offense, and Veltman for handling Callum Hudson-Odoi’s shot after advantage was played.

Jorginho converted from the spot again, and Chelsea quickly capitalized on its two-player advantage when Reece James made it 4-4:

At that point, it seemed only a matter of time until the hosts found the winner.

They thought they had it, too, but the video assistant referee ruled that the ball hit Abraham’s hand before Azpilicueta blasted it home:

To be fair, it was a fitting way to end a contest that fans of both teams will be talking about for many years to come.

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