Frank Lampard felt his Chelsea “babies” came of age in the Champions League after their stunning 1-0 win at Ajax.
Michy Batshuayi climbed off the bench to fire the Blues to a memorable victory in Amsterdam.
The Belgian striker made amends for a shocking earlier miss four minutes from time to hand last season’s semi-finalists their first defeat of this campaign.
The Blues rode their luck at times, not least when an Ajax goal was ruled out by VAR for the tightest of offside calls, and when the hosts hit the frame of the goal.
But Lampard’s young side grew in stature as a frantic, tetchy encounter wore on and ran out deserved winners when Batshuayi rifled in off the underside of the crossbar.
“I’m delighted with every element of the performance,” said the Blues boss.
“It feels huge – it’s just six points in the group and we play Burnley on Saturday. But I think we’re allowed to be excited tonight.
“That’s the blueprint. There are no excuses for us now. That’s the standard and we can’t drop it.
“The young players are still babies in terms of Champions League minutes so this was a huge test for them.
“There was a good balance of young players and experience. We need to realise the things that made that happened tonight because Ajax are a top, top team.”
Lampard was indebted to his substitutes after the lively Christian Pulisic set up the goal for Batshuayi.
“The subs were second to none,” he added. “Sometimes the hardest thing is leaving someone out. But it’s great for the spirit of the squad when subs come on and have an impact like that.
“I was frustrated when Michy missed, and whatever had happened after that I would have been proud, but I know Michy can finish.
“Christian’s assist is as important as the finish, and the fact the sub scored makes me so happy.”
The memory of a visit from a London club remains raw for Ajax following Tottenham’s last-gasp semi-final comeback in May, and this was another painful experience for their youthful outfit.
It could have been different had VAR not spotted that Quincy Promes, or at least a microscopic part of him, was offside before he slid the ball home in the first half, while Edson Alvarez grazed a post in the second period.
Captain Dusan Tadic said: “I think it was 50-50. Chelsea are a good club, but we can do better.
“We were sloppy and made easy mistakes. Now we have to focus again on the next game.”
Stay updated with the latest news, gossip and football stories by following us @Football_P