17 Sep Ajax 2-2 Celtic: 10-man Hoops hold on for point
Celtic had to settle for a share of the spoils in the Europa League Group A opener against Ajax after being pegged back twice in an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Nir Bitton’s opener was cancelled out by Viktor Fischer before Mikael Lustig put Celtic in front again.
However, the Hoops were reduced to 10 men in the second half after Emilio Izaguirre was sent off and substitute Lasse Schone equalised for the hosts.
After defeats to Malmo and Aberdeen, the scrutiny on Celtic and manager Ronny Deila had intensified and once again there will be further questions about the defending after the Hoops conceded from another set piece.
However, this was a respectable result and it all started off so well for Celtic as they ruthlessly punished an Ajax mistake.
Jairo Riedewald carelessly gave the ball away to Bitton, he played a one-two with Kris Commons before drilling the ball past Jasper Cillessen in goal.
The warning signs were there for Celtic early on as Fischer looked threatening.
But as much as there had been question marks over their defence heading into this game there was little they could do about Ajax’s superbly-worked equaliser.
Amin Younes drove forward and played in Davy Klaassen, whose deft flick created the opening for Fischer to produce an accurate finish into the corner.
Frank de Boer’s men looked like they could have added to their tally before the break but it was Celtic who regained the lead.
After James Forrest’s quick thinking, Leigh Griffiths spurned a glorious opportunity to put the Hoops in front but they weren’t to be denied a second as Lustig put them ahead before half-time.
Just as Celtic looked vulnerable at set pieces in previous encounters so too did Ajax in this game as Lustig escaped the attention of Gudelj to power home a header.
Ajax looked frustrated and Celtic almost punished them as Forrest, Lustig and Griffiths all came close.
Arkadiusz Milik and Serero came on for Ajax but Celtic’s task was made increasingly more difficult as Izaguirre was sent off for a second bookable offence on El Ghazi.
That was the catalyst for relentless Ajax attacks and they almost levelled but Milik saw his glancing header come off the post.
But they did restore parity and once again it was Celtic’s Achilies heel from set pieces.
Substitute Schone whipped in the ball from the left, it evaded a ruck of players and Craig Gordon flapped at the shot before it nestled in the corner of the net.
Celtic withstood intense pressure as the Dutch searched for a winner but in the end the Hoops held on for a satisfactory point.