After a rather slow start to the day in the Champions League, the later matches more than made up for the two early starts.
Chelsea and Ajax played to an outrageous 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge, headlining a day that also featured Borussia Dortmund battling back from 2-0 down at home to beat Inter Milan 3-2.
Barcelona still leads Dortmund by a point and Inter by four in Group F despite being held to a 0-0 draw at home by Slavia Praha.
Chelsea and Ajax, meanwhile, are locked in a three-way tie for first with Valencia, with all on seven points after the Spanish side's 4-1 win over Lille–one marked by a stunning long-range goal from Geoffrey Kondogbia.
RB Leipzig continues to top Group G after a 2-0 win at Zenit St. Petersburg, while Lyon is two points back following its comfortable 3-1 win over Benfica
In Group E, Liverpool maintains a narrow one-point lead over Napoli after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's winner in a 2-1 victory over Genk that was less straightforward than most may have expected. Napoli had to battle from behind to tie Jesse Marsch's Salzburg, with teenage sensation Erling Haland's competition-leading seventh goal canceled out by Mexico's Hirving Lozano in a 1-1 draw.
Here are three thoughts on the day in the Champions League:
Chelsea, Ajax and absolute chaos
VAR intervention. Two own goals. Two penalty kicks. Two red cards to players from the same team–within a minute. Chelsea and Ajax's eight-goal draw hit just about every square on the bingo card.
When Tammy Abraham had turned in a Quincy Promes free kick and American Christian Pulisic earned a somewhat dubious penalty within the opening five minutes, it sure seemed like it wouldn't be the average night in London. It definitely didn't seem like it would replicate the chance-light match between the two sides in Amsterdam just two weeks ago, which Chelsea won 1-0.
Instead, it turned out to be one of the more bizarre European nights that Stamford Bridge has ever seen. Ajax was in full command after Hakim Ziyech's tight-angled free kick hit off the post and then Kepa Arrizabalaga's face, and it looked to have all three points sewn up when Ziyech fed Donny van de Beek, who made it 4-1 after a perfect first touch set him up for a close-range finish with 35 minutes to play.
Then, the wheels fell off. Cesar Azpilicueta pulled one back to restore Chelsea's hope in the 63rd minute, and Ajax had starting center backs Daley Blind and Joel Veltman sent off within a minute of each other, the latter highly questionable after a handball resulted in a penalty. Jorginho connected from the spot for the second time on the night, and with Ajax down to nine men, it seemed inevitable the equalizer would come. Indeed it did, three minutes later, as Reece James pulled Chelsea all the way back.
It speaks volumes to the insanity of the night that Chelsea will walk away aggrieved and feeling like it left points on the board, as VAR overturned Azpilicueta's would-be winner for a handball and forced both teams to take the point.
That only four minutes of stoppage time were awarded after everything that transpired in the second half made for even more raised eyebrows, but as it stands, both clubs move forward on seven points, with Chelsea holding the all-important head-to-head tiebreaker–and Ajax down two starting defenders for its next match.
Oddly, it's not the first 4-4 Champions League draw in which Frank Lampard participated. The Chelsea manager scored two goals 10 years ago, when Chelsea and Liverpool dueled in a memorable quarterfinal second leg that the Blues used to advance on a 7-5 on aggregate.
Dortmund flips the script on Inter
For 45 minutes in Germany, Inter Milan was buzzing. Lautaro Martinez had scored a sensational solo goal, while Matias Vecino put the finishing touches on a gorgeous team effort, one that started in the back and was worked clinically throughout the build-up.
Then the second half came.
Dortmund boasts one of the world's best atmospheres, especially for European nights, and Signal Iduna Park was again roaring after Achraf Hakimi and Julian Brandt keyed a comeback that could wind up being decisive in the group.
With two matches to go, Inter has to overcome either Barcelona or Dortmund in order to go through. Antonio Conte's side may still do that, of course, but if it doesn't it'll look back at missed opportunities. There was the home draw vs. Slavia Praha (which doesn't look as bad in retrospect but was still costly) and now dropped points after leading 2-0. In a group as deep as this one, it's all about the fine margins and capitalizing on chances, and Inter could find itself dumped down to the Europa League knockout rounds for not managing to succeed in both areas.
Conte lamented his squad's depth in some explosive post-match remarks
Barcelona dull in home draw
Barcelona's season of head-scratching results continues. A scoreless draw at home against group minnow Slavia Praha followed the weekend defeat to Levante and calls Ernesto Valverde's job security into question yet again. It looked like Barcelona was set to fully turn the corner after a Lionel Messi-led romp vs. Real Valladolid extended its winning streak to seven games, but perhaps that had more to do with the intersection of opponent and an on-day for Messi than anything else.
Barcelona just looks largely devoid of ideas that don't center on finding Messi, which is obviously a fine option but can't be the only option. It should be noted that Messi was denied by the crossbar on a glorious solo effort and then was turned away at the doorstep after Ansu Fati's sumptuous outside-of-the-boot setup. Barcelona also had a goal taken away for a marginal offside call, with Messi a half-step off before setting up Arturo Vidal for a would-be finish.
But outside of those instances, Barcelona was lacking at home against a team it really ought to beat. It's the second time in as many Champions League matches that Slavia Praha gave Barcelona a battle, and it makes you question the club's long-term outlook, fully knowing that Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann are still adjusting to their new surroundings and that Luis Suarez was out hurt on Tuesday.
When looking at the big picture, on one hand, Barcelona tops its group and tops La Liga's table, even after its uneven and inconsistent play. On the other, the club has an upcoming stretch of games that includes hosting Dortmund and playing at Inter Milan in Champions League and playing at Atletico Madrid and hosting Real Madrid all in the next six weeks. We'll know a lot more about the club's fortitude–and Valverde's future on the bench–by the time those games are up.