THURSDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER
EUROPA LEAGUE – GROUP A
AJAX 2-2 CELTIC
Ajax’s 500th game inside the Amsterdam ArenA did not go to plan this evening as Frank de Boer’s side were held to a 2-2 draw by Scottish champions Celtic writes Will Burns.
Celtic, who had failed to score in their last two European away games notched twice. Their boss Ronny Deila, who spent time at Ajax studying their tactics and training methods during his time as Strømsgodset boss, left Amsterdam with a sense of pride clinching an excellent 2-2 draw, ending the game with just ten men.
Frank de Boer picked a young side without experienced heads Ricardo van Rhijn and Lasse Schöne
Highly-rated Israeli midfielder Nir Bitton has a history with Ajax – the last time he played the Amsterdammers, he was shown the red card in last year’s Europa League clash. Tonight proved to be a better experience.
Within seven minutes Bitton put the Scottish champions ahead after an awful midfield mix up from Daley Sinkgraven and Jairo Riedewald. Kris Commons intelligently collected the ball and fed to Biton to place the ball comfortably past Jasper Cillessen.
The home side failed to get going in the first twenty minutes, the midfield failing to link up and the wingers being stopped in their tracks by Mikaël Lustig and Emilio Izaguirre however on 24 minutes the game was levelled.
It was a great team goal by Ajax and great finish from 25 yards out by Viktor Fischer to score for his second consecutive game. Lustig failed to stop the emerging Amin Younes, the German played into Davy Klaassen on the edge of the box and he played a cute back-heel into the path of the Dane who finished coolly past Craig Gordon, making it 1-1.
The goal gave De Godenzonen confidence however after failing to create any clear cut chances, Celtic were ahead again before half-time. Manager Ronny Delia defended his side in a pre-match interview after being accused at failing to deal with set-pieces in the last few matches; he stated “tonight, maybe we will score from a set-piece?”
Well he was not wrong. Commons hit a flat corner into the area and the unmarked Lustig nodded home. Dreadful defending by Ajax, which was disappointing after gaining a foothold in the match since notching the equaliser.
Celtic fans celebrated wildly during the break with an obvious hidden agenda as De Boer played alongside his twin brother Ronald for Celtic’s bitter rivals Glasgow Rangers in 2004, and the Hoops fans revelled in leading the game in particular.
The second half was a torrid affair with either keeper having nothing to do and after De Boer brought some changes into his side, Ajax’s fortunes changed as Celtic left-back Emilio Izaguirre was dismissed for two bookings.
Attacking options Arek Milik and Lasse Schöne were introduced as the Amsterdam crowd got more and more restless with twenty minutes to go, Ajax started to press Celtic with some impact.
With ten to go, the overall quiet Anwar El Ghazi whipped a wonderful pinpoint cross into Milik’s head but unfortunately for the Polish international his effort scraped the inside of the post and bounced out.
Next the chance we saw was the other substitute Schöne finding the levelling goal – from a set-piece. The Danish midfielder floated a free-kick into the area from the left and it missed everyone and ended up past Gordon in the net.
Again, Schöne was involved in the dying minutes as he Milik combined and the Pole nodded over when it was easier to score. It was a poor performance from De Boer’s men and his team selection may be criticised due to the lack of experience – that eventually turned the game around for them – a lucky draw.
AJAX: Cillessen – Tete, Veltman, Riedewald, Dijks – Sinkgraven (Serero 62), Gudelj, Fischer (Schöne 75) – El Ghazi, Klaassen, Younes (Milik 62).
GOALS: Fischer 25, Schöne 84.
BOOKINGS: Serero 89.
CELTIC: Gordon – Lustig (Ambrose 69), Boyata, Simunovic, Izaguirre – Brown, Bitton – Forrest (Blackett 75), Johansen, Commons (Janko 83) – Griffiths.
GOALS: Bitton 8, Lustig 42.
BOOKINGS: Izaguirre 56, Lustig 64, Johansen 68.
SENT OFF: Izaguirre 74.
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