Logic evaporated as anarchy took hold. Callum Hudson-Odoi, on in place of the injured Mason Mount, injected fresh urgency to Chelseas attack and Ajax felt their poise draining away, with their loss of control summed up when their centre-backs, Daley Blind and Joël Veltman, were dismissed in the move that allowed Jorginho to score his second penalty.
Chaos reigned as the hosts roared forward. Reece James, a 19-year-old right-back, made it 4-4 with his first goal at this level and Chelsea thought they had won it when Azpilicueta fired home in the 78th minute only for VAR to spot a handball by Tammy Abraham.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Quincy Promess free-kick would lead to Ajaxs opener and the Dutchman would also score another in the first half. Photograph: Ian Stephen/ProSports/Shutterstock It was absurd. Lampard took part in some storming Champions League games when he was playing for Chelsea and he did not know if this ranked as his wildest experience at Stamford Bridge. More pertinently, Chelseas manager was unsure whether to be relieved with a point or disappointed that a winner eluded them during the closing stages. A draw keeps them joint-top of Group H, level on seven points with Ajax and Valencia with two games left, keeping their hopes of reaching the last 16 in the balance.
There will have to be greater tactical precision when Chelsea visit Valencia later this month. They thumped Lille 4-1 at home and will have noted the defensive failings that flared up against Ajax, who still carried a threat after going down to nine men. Edson Álvarez and Noussair Mazraoui both tested Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelseas goalkeeper, during that barmy finale.
Yet for all that Ajax raged at Gianluca Rocchi, the Italian referee, Erik ten Hags smooth side also have to examine their own failings after squandering a three-goal lead. The Eredivisie pacesetters were outstanding during the opening hour, when the defensive organisation that brought Chelsea victory in Amsterdam two weeks ago was conspicuous only by its absence. It soon became apparent that Ajax, Champions League semi-finalists last season, were not cowed by Uefa forbidding their fans from entering Stamford Bridge as punishment for disorderly scenes in Valencia last month.
Read more Their approach was as bold as ever and they went ahead with a soft goal after two minutes. Quincy Promes whipped in a dangerous free-kick from the left and Abraham made a hash of his attempted clearance at the near post, swinging wildly at the ball and diverting it beyond Arrizabalaga.
An air of foreboding fell over Stamford Bridge, even though Chelseas response was immediate. Lampard was out of his seat in the dugout when Christian Pulisic, surging into the area after good work from Mount, was chopped down by Veltman. Jorginho casually sent André Onana the wrong way to bring Chelsea level.
Abraham had a goal disallowed for offside in the 14th minute but Ajax quickly regained their lead. Ten Hag picked an attacking side and David Neres caused plenty of problems for Marcos Alonso. Chelseas left-back was vulnerable before being replaced by James at half-time and Ajax found plenty of space down his flank, profiting when Ziyech crossed for Promes to peel behind Azpilicueta and head past Arrizbalaga.
Fortunate when Promes missed a chance to put Ajax out of sight, Lampard put James at right-back and moved Azpilicueta to the left during the break. Yet the punishment continued. Ajax pressed hard, looking for errors, and Pulisic obliged when he lost possession. Ziyech fed Van de Beek, who had time and space to pick his spot.
Then things got weird. James kept charging down the right flank, Hudson-Odoi ran at Ajax and Chelsea were rewarded for their positivity when Azpilicueta scored from close range after Abraham had flicked on Pulisics cross.
Read more Ajax unravelled, though they argued they were unfortunate that Rocchi should have awarded them a free-kick when Blind tussled with Jorginho. Play continued, Blind fouled Abraham and Veltman handled Hudson-Odois shot. Ajax seethed when Rocchi pointed to the spot before showing second yellow cards to Veltman and Blind.
Jorginho outwitted Onana again and Chelsea anticipated victory once James had hauled them level in the 74th minute, fizzing a low drive into the net after Abraham had headed against the bar.
Yet there was still time for some VAR drama and Ajax held on when Onana brilliantly denied the Chelsea substitute Michy Batshuayi in the final minute.
Chelsea Frank Lampard has claimed his Chelsea team have proved they can go places by staging an incredible Champions League fightback to draw with Ajax on one of the craziest nights of his career.
Trailing 4-1 in the second half, Chelsea hit back to draw and were only denied a dramatic winner by VAR after Ajax had seen both Daley Blind and Joel Veltman sent off.
The result means Ajax, Chelsea and Valencia are tied on seven points in Group H with two games to go. The Blues travel to Spain to play Valencia next on November 27.
Lampard said: The spirit that we showed and the character was something that I loved, and I think our fans loved. We need to tighten up for sure, but with that spirit we can go places.
Today was a mad one, I dont think there are too many I can even compare it to from my day. I know we had 4-4s with Liverpool and some crazy games. This one is hard to put into perspective. For everything it was, for the spectacle it was, it is certainly up there.
Chelsea were trailing 3-1 at half-time and went further behind when Donny van de Beek extended the visitors advantage, but Lampard was confident his team could get back into the game.
Following Jorginhos first-half penalty, Chelsea snatched a draw through Cesar Azpilicueta, another Jorginho spot-kick and a goal from substitute Reece James. Azpilicueta thought he had won it, but saw his strike ruled out for a handball by Tammy Abraham, who netted an own-goal in the opening two minutes.
Im relieved from the position at half-time, although I told the players at half-time that we could draw the game 3-3 or win 4-3, or it might be 4-4, said Lampard. I just felt that the few moments we conceded in the first half were a mixture of our sloppiness and also some bad fortune.
We just needed a bit more, a bit more in the final third to lift the spirit in the stadium. Im delighted with that part of it and were probably a bit disappointed in the last 10 minutes not to win it, but in the cold light of day we were 4-1 down so it was a good result.
On Chelseas prospects of qualifying from the group, with games against Valencia and Lille to come, Lampard added: Its tough. We are kicking ourselves with the Valencia game now with the penalty.
I felt teams could take points off each other. Were in it, but we certainly have work to do. We need to go to Valencia and Lille come here. Both of those are very tough matches.
The performances in Lille and at Ajax should give us confidence. Valencia have had a great result tonight (beating Lille) and that will give them confidence that they can go through.