BY PAUL LAGAN
Willian knows that if Chelsea are to get out of the group stage of the Champions League they will have to eradicate the errors that saw them go 4-1 down to Ajax, on Tuesday night before recovering in sensational fashion to salvage a 4-4 draw and a precious point.
While the fans talk about the remarkable eight-goal thriller at Stamford Bridge, the reality is that the Blues’ hopes of progressing further hang in the balance, and their next game in the group, against Valencia, away at the Mestalla on November 27, will determine their European future.
Ajax, Valencia and Chelsea are all tied on seven points – the other team in the group, Lille, prop up the table with one point – they visit the Bridge in the final group game on December 10.
By then, who progresses – the top two and who enters the Europa League for finishing third, will almost certainly have been decided.
That’s why Chelsea’s match in Spain is so crucial. Having lost the home leg to Valencia 1-0, Chelsea basically have to win to guarantee progression.
The Brazil international said: “It was a good game, a crazy game, and was a great comeback (by us) – great effort. I think we did everything, gave everything to get the result – the three points.
“But unfortunately at the end we didn’t. At least we put in a lot of energy to get the point.”
Chelsea had to dig themselves out of a hole when they went 4-1 down – it helped that Ajax had two players sent off.
Had it not happened, the Blues would almost certainly be staring Champions League oblivion in the face.
Willian, 31, recognised this, and that it was self-inflicted: “You know (for) their first three goals – I think that we can’t concede any more (like that).
“It was our mistakes, we have to learn from that – but their third goal was a bit of luck. The ball hit the post. But this is football.”
After the fourth goal, we continued to play. Of course we had two men more – the game became a bit more easy, but I think we deserved a better result.”
That better result failed to materialise as VAR intervened when Cesar Azpilicueta smashed home from close range what would have been the home side’s fifth goal.
The faceless authorities watching a replay of the incident from multiple angles decided that the Spain fullback had handled the ball. Willian thought it was the winner.
He said: “I think so. And then when VAR said ‘no goal’. But I said (to myself) ‘we have more than 15 minutes left to score’.
“In my mind I was always thinking we can score one or two mores goals as we were in control of the game at that moment.
The second half was a revelation – suggesting Frank Lampard might have had a few choice words with his player – Willian suggests otherwise.
“He was calm,” he said. “Of course we were frustrated at the result, but we were calm, very positive to come back into second half and continue to play.”
Chelsea playmaker Jorginho agrees that the Blues have to stop making silly mistakes at the back if they are to be successful.
The Brazil-born Italy international said: “I think the most important thing is we didn’t give up. When it was 4-1, it was hard to believe and we did. It is so important for us.
“That comes from our spirit, for each other. We know each other, believe in each other. We are team-mates.”
The midfielder, who hit a brace of penalties in the night of drama, is as pragmatic off the pitch as he is on it.
“We didn’t win and we should have done. We had a two-player advantage. We need to win in Valencia – It will be tough.
“It is so important. We cannot make mistakes at this level of football.
“With any single mistake we can lose the game. Against Ajax we should have played with more calm, not to have gone for goals straight away – pass a little bit more to find space.
“I think we learnt that we can improve from this game.”