The dilemma facing Chelsea manager Antonio Conte regarding the make-up of his forward line next season has been further accentuated after on-loan forward Bertrand Traore rose to the big occasion to put Ajax on the brink of reaching the Europa League final after thrashing Lyon 4-1 in Amsterdam. The Burkina Faso international scored in both halves as the Eredivise side closed in on a first European final for 22 years with an emphatic first leg win.
Traore opened the scoring after 27 minutes, flicking home Hakim Ziyech's free-kick, before Kasper Dolberg doubled the lead after Daley Sinkgraven took advantage of a defensive mix-up. Amin Younes beat goalkeeper Anthony Lopes four minutes after the break to increase the lead, and though Mathieu Valbuena reduced the deficit Traore had the last word as he converted from another Ziyech cross.
"I thought we played pretty well in the second half," Ajax manager Peter Bosz said. "It was a bizarre game. I found the first 15 to 20 minutes from us very badly. Lyon put us under pressure and we did not have shape. It seemed as if we were tense.
"But contrary to what we actually go through during the entire season, the first two chances went in. Then you find yourself 2-0. Combined with the great crowd went there arose something beautiful. It also could be a result of 7-3, 7-4 or 8-4.
"Those who follow Ajax know that we have played more such games, though these were not as open as it is today. But against Feyenoord and Schalke we also played very well. We want to win, just in an attractive way. We believe that we must play for the fans and the supporters. "
The double for Traore, 21, brings his tally for the season to 13 in all competitions. Only Diego Costa and Eden Hazard have scored more times for Chelsea this season than the youngster, who has also contributed six assists, but it has not been all plain sailing for Traore.
Bosz criticised his fitness mid-way through the season – after Traore had returned from playing at the Africa Cup of Nations. But the forward has reacted positively and now has five goals in his last six appearances. As well as an outing in the Europa League final, Traore could finish the campaign with two pieces of silverware though Ajax must overhaul Feyenoord's four-point lead at the top in the final two games of the campaign if they are to claim the Eredivisie title.
The showing of Traore in one of the biggest games of his senior career will provide food for thought for Chelsea boss Conte, as he tentatively begins planning for next season. The west Londoners need three wins from their final four Premier League games in order to beat Tottenham Hotspur to the title and though the Italian is publicly insisting the championship remains his sole focus, attention will surely have already turned to the summer.
The main decision facing Chelsea regards their strikers. Costa continues to be heavily linked with a move to the Chinese Super League, with reports in Spain claiming a £76.2m move to Tianjin Quanjian has already been agreed. Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata have both been linked with filling the void, but could Conte look at his existing resources before dipping into the transfer market?
Alongside Traore, England under-21 international Tammy Abraham will return to Chelsea in the summer after a successful campaign with Championship side Bristol City. The 19-year-old has scored 26 goals in all competitions this term for the Robins, a tally which has seen them stave off relegation.
But whether Conte considers the pair capable of stepping into the breach at a club contesting for trophies at the summit of the sport is uncertain. Abraham has never played for the Chelsea first-team, while Traore has made just four starts for the club since making his debut in 2015.
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