Celtic beats Ajax to revive Champions League hopes
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP)
Celtic revived its Champions League campaign by beating Ajax 2-1 on Tuesday, leaving the Dutch side's qualification hopes in tatters.
Ajax midfielder Stefano Denswil had a night to forget in Glasgow, bringing down Anthony Stokes to allow James Forrest to convert a penalty in the final minute of a lackluster first half.
Denswil then deflected Beram Kayal's shot into his own net after 53 minutes to make it 2-0 and ensure Ajax stayed on just one point from three games in a Group H that also contains heavyweight teams Barcelona and AC Milan.
Celtic played the final three minutes with 10 men after substitute Nir Biton was red-carded for a studs-up tackle on Thulani Serero, and conceded a goal to Lasse Schone with seconds left.
But the Scottish champions had already done enough to bounce back successfully from plucky losses at Milan and then at home to Barca. They moved just two points behind second-place Milan.
''I said they would give us problems and our squad is stretched,'' said Celtic manager Neil Lennon, who was without two key midfielders in captain Scott Brown (suspended) and playmaker Kris Commons (injured). ''So that's a monumental effort from the players.''
Celtic's disappointing start to the competition put this match in the must-win category for Celtic, which had lost just two of its previous 21 Champions League group-stage matches at Parkhead.
Ajax struck the post through Christian Poulsen in the 29th minute and hadn't been troubled at the other end until Denswil brought down Stokes in a rare Celtic attack.
After a two-minute delay in which officials dealt with protests from Ajax players, Forrest stepped up off a long run-up to plant a brilliant penalty into the top-right corner. Commons is usually Celtic's penalty taker.
Denswil's night got even worse nine minutes into the second half. Georgios Samaras' shot rebounded out to Kayal, whose sidefooted effort from 25 meters (yards) was heading straight for goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen until Denswil stuck his right leg out and diverted the ball into the corner.
Biton's straight red for an ugly lunge on Serero, just 11 minutes after coming on as a substitute, meant Celtic was forced to defend frantically in the closing stages and Schone capitalized on the extra space by bending home a 25-yard shot in the last of four minutes of injury time.