Celtic break Champions League drought with defeat of Ajax
London: 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.