Celtic’s Champions League hopes are hanging by a thread after they slumped to the bottom of Group H with a narrow defeat to Ajax in Amsterdam.
Lasse Schöne, who had scored after coming on as substitute in the 2-1 defeat at Parkhead, grabbed the winner with a well-taken goal in the 51st minute to sink the Scottish champions who were far from their best in what was a mostly scrappy game.
The Celtic keeper Fraser Forster strengthened his claim for an England cap with two good saves in the first-half which was bereft of quality and in which Neil Lennon’s men hardly threatened.
The game opened up after the break. Schöne struck just after Celtic midfielder Beram Kayal had missed a good chance for the visitors and before Anthony Stokes failed with a good opportunity to equalise.
Celtic, whose Dutch defender Virgil van Dijk was immense, remain on three points with two fixtures remaining. Ajax move above them on four points with Barcelona having qualified following their 3-1 win over Milan at the Nou Camp.
Celtic were boosted by the return of Georgios Samaras and Kris Commons who recovered from respective knee and hamstring injuries.
The home side started with purpose and in the sixth minute Forster made a good save from Stefano Denswil’s 25-yard free-kick
In the 16th minute Forster came to the rescue again for the Glasgow side when he pushed away a downward header from Siem de Jong.
Four minutes into the second-half, after the Dutch side lost possession once more in attack, Kayal was allowed to run 50 yards to the edge of the Ajax penalty area but he blazed his drive high over the bar.
Celtic were made to pay for that moments later when Schöne slipped the ball past Forster from 12 yards after working a one-two with Thulani Serero at the edge of the penalty area.
With that, the game opened up further and Stokes had a chance in the 54th minute when he was set up by Commons but his low drive was dealt with by Jasper Cillesen.At the other end, Schöne’s corner from the left was headed off the line by Emilio Izaguirre.
* Lionel Messi ended a three-game scoring drought, netting twice as Barcelona beat Milan to go five points clear at the top.
Results so far
Barcelona 4-0 Ajax, Milan 2-0 Celtic; Ajax 1-1 Milan, Celtic 0-1 Barcelona; Celtic 2-1 Ajax, Milan 1-1 Barcelona; Ajax 1-0 Celtic, Barcelona 3-1 Milan.
26 Nov Ajax v Barcelona, Celtic v Milan. 11 Dec Barcelona v Celtic, Milan v Ajax.
Man of match Schone.
Match rating 6/10.
Referee D Aytekin (Ger).