Celtic break Champions League drought with defeat of Ajax

REUTERS - Celtic rode their luck to beat Ajax Amsterdam 2-1 with goals either side of halftime on Tuesday, their first points in Champions League Group H after two defeats.

The Dutch side, who failed to take a number of excellent chances, were incensed by a penalty awarded just before the interval when Anthony Stokes went down after a collision. James Forrest scored from the spot after a long delay.

Beram Kayal doubled the lead nine minutes into the second period with a deflected shot from outside the area.

Celtic's Nir Biton was sent off in the game's final stages for a late tackle on Thulani Serero and Ajax's Lasse Schoene reduced the deficit with a swerving effort in added time.

"That's a fantastic win for us, a monumental effort from those players tonight," said Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

Ajax's Frank de Boer felt the better side had ended up losing the game.

"I cannot be angry, we gave 120 percent, we created many chances. But in the end we had to score (from them)," the Dutch side's manager said.

Celtic have three points in Group H and Ajax one. The 1-1 draw between Milan and Barcelona leaves the Italians with five points and Barcelona top on seven.

Ajax provided much of the invention and movement in the first half and put Celtic under pressure with quick breakaways, but the home defence stuck to their task.

Celtic had the first clear chance of the night but Teemu Pukki failed to get proper purchase on Mikael Lustig's cross from the right after 19 minutes.

Christian Poulsen had a great opportunity to put Ajax ahead when a free-kick by Viktor Fischer was flicked on but the midfielder, at a tight angle, could only hit the post.

The breakthrough came when Giorgios Samaras laid the ball back for Stokes to burst into the Ajax area. Stefano Denswil came across to cover and made contact with the Celtic striker who went down and Croatian referee Ivan Bebek blew for a foul.

The Ajax players were incensed and Forrest was made to wait an age before he could take the spot kick, which he sent high past Jasper Cillessen.

"It's always good to get a goal just before halftime," said Celtic's Charlie Mulgrew. "We knew this would be a massive game for us, we knew we needed three points to keep our hopes alive and we went all out to do that."

The start of the second half was studded with good goal opportunities and a neat Ajax move opened up the home defence but Serrero, on his own in front of Fraser Forster, allowed the goalkeeper to smother the chance.

Seconds later, Celtic were 2-0 ahead. Samaras cut in from the left and saw his shot blocked, but the ball came out to Kayal and his shot from outside the area took a deflection off Denswil and left Cillessen grasping at air.

Ajax should have pulled a goal back immediately after Ricardo van Rhijn's shot was blocked and Kolbeinn Sithorsson, with time to pick his spot from 10 metres, hit the ball wide.

Serrero blazed over when well placed with 12 minutes left while Daley Blind drew a diving save from Forster late on.

Biton's red card meant Celtic retreated to protect Forster who defied Schoene once before the Dane beat him with a bending drive just before the final whistle. (Reporting By Robert Woodward; Editing by Rex Gowar)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

T20 test for Che Pujara

T20 test for Che Pujara

The class act from Saurashtra may have to rethink his approach to the manner-less format. More »

Punjab pull off another big chase

Punjab pull off another big chase

GAME 7, SHARJAH—Maxwell, Miller, Pujara chase down Rajasthan's 192. More »

Chaos threatens to engulf SL again

Chaos threatens to engulf SL again

As Lanka's head coach decides to jump ship, euphoria over winning an ICC tournament has dissipated into fuistration. More »

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Some members stressed on the need for proposing names with an "impeccable record and clean image". More »

Cook relieved after period in limbo

Cook relieved after period in limbo

The England captain is looking forward to a fresh start after a dispiriting Ashes defeat last year. More »

Repose faith in Indian coaches

Repose faith in Indian coaches

All of them cost plenty of dollars which I feel is unnecessary for a two- month tournament, says former cricketer Yajurvindra Singh. More »

Jayasuriya unhappy at Farbrace conduct

Jayasuriya unhappy at Farbrace conduct

Sri Lanka's chief selector is upset at news of head coach Paul Farbrace's possible move to England. More »

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

The Nawab of Najafgarh says a good run in IPL could help his chances of a comeback on India's tour to England in June. More »

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Furious fifties by Duminy and Dinesh Karthik end a long losing streak for the Daredevils. More »

Panel can help clean mess: Raghavan

Panel can help clean mess: Raghavan

The former CBI Director is one of three candidates proposed by the BCCI to head the enquiry into the IPL betting and spot-fixing scandal. More »

Five things England must do to bounce back

Five things England must do to bounce back

England have appointed a new head coach in Peter Moores. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

‘Felt like helpless minority’

‘Felt like helpless minority’

Former BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke says emotions got the better of Srinivasan and he tried to oversimplify things by calling Meiyappan an “enthusiast.” More »

Royal test for Kings

Royal test for Kings

Preview — Clash of philosophies between Australia-centric teams More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

The world record that nearly wasn't

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

His status as president of TNCA makes him eligible to attend the Working Committee meeting on Sunday. More »

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

Moores gets second stint as coach

Moores gets second stint as coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh's senior players will have three sessions with a psychological skill development coach later this month More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »