Ajax keep alive hopes of Last 16 with win over Celtic
Dutch champions Ajax got the result they needed to keep alive their hopes of reaching the Champions League Last 16 on Wednesday with a 1-0 win over Scottish champions Celtic.
Knowing defeat would have seen them eliminated from the competition the Dutch champions started in determined fashion with Fraser Forster keeping out efforts from Stefano Denswil and Siem De Jong.
Despite dominating possession Ajax were made to wait until the 51st minute to make the breakthrough when a wonderful passing move ended with Lasse Schone expertly guiding the ball past Forster.
Emilio Izaguirre then cleared off the line after Forster misjudged Schone's corner before Anthony Stokes and Kris Commons missed rare chances for the Hoops.
Denswil hit the post with a late header as Ajax picked up their first win of the campaign to gain revenge for their defeat in Glasgow a fortnight ago.
Celtic's 24th defeat in 26 Champions League away games means they prop up Group H on three points, a point behind Ajax and two behind AC Milan, who lost 3-1 to Barcelona.
The Hoops must now defeat the Italians in Glasgow in three weeks time if they are to avoid exiting the competition.
"It was a very disappointing first half but a better second half and we had opportunities to score goals and we didn't take them," Celtic manager Neil Lennon said.
"When Schone got the goal we were just starting to get a foothold in the game and we missed some decent opportunities.
"I think some players will have some regrets about the game tonight because they were nowhere near their best."
Ajax coach Frank de Boer was delighted with his side's win - their first in six matches.
"They fought hard and I saw today the absolute will to win, " de Boer said.
"I saw some really nice attacks and this gives us confidence that we must take into our next game."
Celtic were able to recall Mikel Lustig, Commons and Georgios Samaras, who had all been struggling with injuries, while Beram Kayal was preferred to Joe Ledley in midfield.
De Boer made three changes from the team that lost in Glasgow, with Nicolai Boilesen, Davy Klaassen and Schone coming into the starting line-up.
The early warning signs were there for Celtic when Lustig had to make a desperate clearance from an early Schone cross.
Forster was called into action for the first time moments later when he had to push Denswil's curling free-kick from 30 yards round the post.
The Dutch were dominating possession and Ajax captain De Jong was only denied by a wonderful save from Forster in the 17th minute as he scrambled to turn his header from 14 yards round the post.
Ajax took a 51st minute lead following some wonderful build-up play.
Schone played a series of one-twos with his team mates to work his way into the Celtic box before slipping the ball under Forster.
Ajax came close to doubling their lead in the 56th minute when Forster completely misjudged the flight of Schone's corner and it was left to Izaguirre to head the ball off the line.
This seemed to spur Celtic into life and they responded with their first shot on target but Stokes sent his effort straight at Jasper Cillessen.
James Forrest then squandered a great chance when he broke forward as Joel Veltman intercepted his attempted pass to Stokes when two on one against the Ajax defender in the box.
Only the upright denied Ajax a second goal in the 87th minute when Densil was allowed a free header in the box from corner but, with Forster beaten, his effort bounced off the outside of the post and out for a goal-kick.
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