It was worth the wait.
Hakim Ziyech’s first competitive start since March, when Ajax’s season was curtailed by coronavirus, was a huge success. The Moroccan took his goal well, showing plenty of composure before finishing into the bottom right corner to make it 3-0, but also displayed the full range of his passing ability.
Better still is that Frank Lampard expects him to improve with more games under his belt.
“I thought his performance was very, very good when you consider he hasn’t started a match since March when the Dutch league finished,” the head coach said. “So I have been very excited to get him on the pitch so it has been frustration for me and for him and us that his injury hasn’t allowed him to start.
“But what I have seen in training so far and what I knew we were signing as a player was a player with immense quality and personality to receive the ball, assists and find goals. We saw a lot of glimpses of that today.
“We brought him in to do a job and maybe people have forgotten a bit because we signed him in January and he missed the start of the season. Tonight, he certainly showed he is here.”
Another attacker to leave Russia with plenty of confidence was Callum Hudson-Odoi, although he also departed with a significant ice pack strapped around his leg. It has not been an easy start to the season for the young winger, having to bide his time for opportunities with several players in front of him but he did he case for more minutes no harm.
Lampard added: “The goal is clearly going to be good for his confidence. There were things I liked in his game today. His desire to run in behind the defence. Sometimes one v one, it didn’t go his way but I’m very pleased that when you play in the Champions League and get your goal.
“I know the feeling of confidence it can give him. In terms of his injury, it hasn’t been flagged to me after the match that there is a problem so I assume and hope there is nothing wrong. I’m just pleased…