Callum Hudson-Odoi endures frustrating night but Chelsea teenager will have learnt much after becoming club’s youngest Champions League starter in nine years in win over Ajax
Tiny moments. They are what decide Champions League games such as these, according to Frank Lampard. And ahead of last night’s clash in Amsterdam, the challenge he laid down to his young players was to ensure they capitalised on every one.
The Chelsea manager was responding to a question about Callum Hudson-Odoi – and whether the 18-year-old winger was ready to start on this stage.
He insisted the need for ‘detail, focus, concentration’ applied to all his starlets but for Hudson-Odoi the stakes felt particularly high.
Callum Hudson-Odoi showed promise and frustration in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Ajax
Hudson-Odoi fired Chelsea’s best early chance high and wide of goal on Wednesday night
The 18-year-old showed glimpses of sublime skill and beat players at will on several occasions
Though the 18-year-old’s return from injury has coincided with a five-match winning run, it was a still a significant show of faith from Lampard to make him Chelsea’s youngest Champions League starter for nearly nine years.
The walls of the Johan Cruyff Arena are lined with pictures of local heroes past and present, each one a reminder of Ajax’s incredible production line of young talent.
On Wednesday night Hudson-Odoi had a chance to write his own chapter. Several it turned out.
Frank Lampard called for ‘detail, focus, concentration’ from his young players before the game
In a first half littered with individual errors, Hudson-Odoi was a source of both promise and frustration. With the ball at his feet he beat Ajax right-back Sergino Dest on several occasions, only for his final product to let him down.
The 18-year-old played a neat one-two with Mason Mount before the midfielder forced a good save from Andre Onana. On no fewer than four occasions, though, Hudson-Odoi squandered good positions.
He missed Chelsea’s best early chance, too, snatching at a shot from inside the box.
Hudson-Odoi will have learnt much from the first Champions League start of his career
It was much of the same after the break as the winger struggled to turn more flashes of brilliance into anything concrete.
The introduction of Christian Pulisic saw him switch flanks and soon the wingers combined. Hudson-Odoi’s neat flick fed Pulisic but the England international failed to turn home the return pass. Fortunately Michy Batshuayi had more success shortly after.
This was another learning curve in the early years of a winger who recently signed a £50million new deal.
When he came off late on, he was given hug by captain Cesar Azpilicueta. Not everything had gone his way but this is just the start. Many more tiny moments await.