Celtic 2 Ajax 1 match report: Kayal at the centre as Celtic down Dutch through force

Energy of the fans was enough to lift Celtic and give them the edge over Dutch opposition

Celtic Park

The sheer intensity of Celtic could not be contained. Ajax were capable of precision and quick, cutting interchanges, but they could not stand firm against a team that was adamant that victory would belong to them. If the general play was mostly evenly balanced, the forceful incidents all belonged to Celtic.

Ajax will have left Glasgow last night still dazed by the occasion and all of its devastating moments. Neil Lennon’s side tends to feel charged by these European nights at Celtic Park, and that energy was enough to provide the edge over Ajax. The Dutch were composed in all but the most crucial area, since the inadequacy of their defending was critical.

This was two teams that understood the contest was as much about elimination as glory. The loser, even with three Group H fixtures remaining, would concede that their hopes of qualifying would be remote. They carried their flaws into the game. Ajax have not won an away game all season, while Celtic had not scored in either of their previous Champions League encounters.

The home side, too, were missing their captain, Scott Brown, who provides their midfield drive, and Kris Commons, who is at the heart of their creative impulses. Nonetheless, there was no sense of inhibition; not at Celtic Park, where the faint-hearted tend to be overcome by the raucous noise of the home crowd.

A contrast was quickly evident. Where Ajax sought to be controlled in their play, Celtic were relying on swamping their opponents, of surging beyond a defence that has conceded a slew of goals this season and contained at centre-back Joel Veltman, a 21-year-old making his European debut, and Stefano Denswil, a 20-year-old.

Hesitancy was evident amongst the Ajax backline when Mikael Lustig crossed for Teemu Pukki, but the Finnish striker could not apply a strong enough touch on the ball. The visitors were more assured going forward, with some of their one-touch passing, and the angles of their movement, sharp enough to leave Celtic’s defence looking static. This included at set-pieces and Christian Poulsen’s volley struck the post from Viktor Fischer’s free-kick.

For all the crispness of their passing, Ajax could not contain the peril of their inexperience. As half-time approached, Denswil rashly tripped Anthony Stokes inside the penalty area. James Forrest finished powerfully and accurately from the spot.

The interval was a respite from the rush of blood that the game experienced, but there was no lasting escape for Denswil. When the ball broke to Beram Kayal at the edge of the area soon after the restart, his shot deflected into the net off the Ajax defender. The play was hectic by then, with Thulani Serero scorning a chance to equalise just before the goal, only for Fraser Forster to deny him. The only regret for Celtic was Nir Biton being sent off two minutes from the end, for a dangerous challenge on Serero. Then the substitute Lasse Schöne struck a late consolation for Ajax from 20 yards out.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project