Ajax 1 Celtic 0
Celtic’s Champions League hopes are hanging by a thread after they slumped to the bottom of Group H with defeat at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Lasse Schone, who had scored after coming on as substitute in the 2-1 defeat at Celtic Park, grabbed the winner with a well-taken goal in the 51st minute to sink the Scottish champions, who were far from their best in a mostly scrappy game.
Hoops keeper Fraser Forster strengthened his claim for an England cap with two good saves in a first half which was bereft of quality and in which Neil Lennon’s men hardly threatened.
The game opened up after the break. Schone 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 level.
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 AC MIlan at the Nou Camp.
Milan visit Celtic Park later this month before the Hoops travel to the Nou Camp in December to play Barcelona.
The decision to close the stadium roof had been taken during the day which meant the decibel level was raised to produce a great atmosphere.
However, some home fans momentarily held up an offensive banner aimed at the Parkhead club’s Irish roots on what was its 126th anniversary and which may be looked into by Uefa.
The home side started with purpose and in the sixth minute Forster made a good save from Stefano Denswil’s 25-yard free-kick, after Kris Commons had fouled Daley Blind, with the corner coming to nothing.
There was an Ajax claim for a penalty moments later when right-back Ricardo van Rhijn’s cross struck van Dijk but German referee Deniz Aytekin looked seriously unimpressed.
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, who had escaped Hoops defender Efe Ambrose to get on to the end of a van Rhijn cross.
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 Schone slipped the ball past Forster from 12 yards after working a one-two with Thulani Serero at the edge of the Hoops box.
With that, the game opened up further and Dubliner 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.
Lennon’s side had another opportunity in the 67th minute when Davy Klaassen was penalised for blocking Commons’ pass 25 yards from goal but the former Derby player drove the ball straight to a grateful Cillesen.
Celtic will now go into the game against Milan probably needing a victory to have any realistic chance of progression.
AJAX: Cillessen, Van Rhijn, Veltman, Denswil, Boilesen, Klaassen (Poulsen 83), Blind, Serero (Fischer 72), Schone, De Jong, Sigthorsson (van der Hoorn 90).
CELTIC: Forster, Lustig, Ambrose, van Dijk, Mulgrew, Stokes (Boerrigter 73), Commons (Pukki 81), Kayal (Ledley 77), Izaguirre, Forrest, Samaras.
Referee: Deniz Aytekin (Germany).
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