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Chelsea dominate Ajax to seize control of Champions League tie

Chelsea continued their quest for a maiden Women’s Champions League crown as a 3-0 first-leg victory seized control of their quarter-final against Ajax.

Lauren James’ 15th goal of the season set Chelsea on their way before a double from Sjoeke Nusken saw the Blues overpower a youthful Ajax on their first quarter-final appearance.

Chelsea welcome Ajax to Stamford Bridge on March 27, with Emma Hayes’ side in pole position to reach a fifth European semi-final in six seasons.

Having beaten Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Roma while navigating their way through a daunting group phase, Ajax’s young stars set about claiming another European scalp in front a 35,991 crowd – a Dutch record for a women’s game.

Romee Leuchter nearly gave Ajax a dream start inside seven minutes, rattling the frame of the Chelsea goal, before Tiny Hoekstra forced an early save from Chelsea goalkeeper Hannah Hampton.

Chelsea's Lauren James scores her side's first goal past Ajax's Regina van Eijk during the Women's Champions League quarterfinal soccer match between Ajax and Chelsea at the Johan Cruyff ArenA, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Image: Lauren James opened the scoring for Chelsea in Amsterdam

The early pressure kicked Chelsea into gear and the visitors soon took the lead, the prolific James timing her run in behind perfectly to gather Erin Cuthbert’s through ball after it ricocheted off two Ajax defenders, before coolly rounding the goalkeeper and converting to silence the Amsterdam crowd.

Chelsea looked to have doubled their lead five minutes before the interval, but Guro Reiten’s effort was ruled out after Nusken was adjudged to have interfered in play from an offside position.

But Ajax’s reprieve lasted all of three minutes, Nusken atoning for her role in Chelsea’s disallowed second goal by converting Reiten’s fine cross on the slide as Chelsea established a two-goal advantage on the stroke of half-time.

Chelsea's Sjoeke Nuksen, right, celebrates after scoring her side's second goal during the Women's Champions League quarterfinal soccer match between Ajax and Chelsea at the Johan Cruyff ArenA, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Image: Sjoeke Nuksen doubled Chelsea’s lead before half-time with her first of two goals

Ajax showed little sign of being able to chip away at the deficit after the break and, as fatigue began to set in, Chelsea all but put the game out of their reach with a little help from the bench.

After James forced a save from Ajax goalkeeper Regina Van Eijk and Erin Cuthbert blazed a glorious chance over, Chelsea got the third their dominance deserved, as substitute Catarina Macario crossed for Nusken to head in her second and underscore a dominant performance from the women in blue.

What’s next for Chelsea?

Sunday 24th March 4:30pm Kick off 4:30pm

Sky Sports Football HD Sky Sports Football HD

Chelsea travel to West Ham in the Women’s Super League on Sunday at 4.30pm – live on Sky Sports – before hosting Ajax in the second leg of their Women’s Champions League quarter-final on March 27 at 8pm.

Sky News
(c) Sky Sports 2024:Source