Ajax still has the possibility of remaining in the UEFA Europa League for a while longer. Thanks to their 1-2 win at Celtic, Ajax still has a chance to qualify for the knock-out phase, although this is contingent on Fenerbahçe, who defeated Molde 0-2. Vaclav Cerny scored the winning goal shortly before the end. Donny van de Beek made his debut in the second half.
It was an amazing moment at 22:00 local time. While the stands emptied out quickly, the Ajax fans in the visitors’ stands had a great time with the remaining Ajacieds Van de Beek and Cerny. The players – one who had made his debut, one who had scored the winning goal – were treated to songs and cheering, and they celebrated in a corner of the stadium. It was an unforgettable evening for the Ajax teenagers.
Out of our hands
The scenario for both Ajax and Celtic was crystal clear beforehand: a win was essential in order to keep the chance for survival in Europe alive. Considering the performances of the number 3 and number 4 of pool A (Ajax had three points, Celtic two), it would be tough, regardless. The win in Scotland ensured that Ajax doubled its points, meaning that they will be fighting to make it past the winter break in the last round. However, the outcome is out of the Eredivisie leader ‘s hands, considering the team’s two point deficit against Fenerbahçe.
It was the first time in four years that Ajax won a European group match away from Amsterdam. Since their 2-0 win against Dinamo Zagreb at the end of 2011, Ajax had only managed to gather five points in twelve group matches on foreign soil. Only the knock-out matches against Legia Warsaw (earlier this year) and Manchester United (2012) resulted in wins. And now, this victory against Glasgow can be added to that list.
Against Celtic, Lasse Schöne took over for the injured Thulani Serero. Frank de Boer was also forced to make a last-minute change because Joël Veltman had become ill in the course of the day. Mike van der Hoorn stood in for him in the lovely Celtic Park. The home team was also forced to make do without some key players, among which the injured captain, Scott Brown. The Scots played with an entirely new midfield.
The evening started off in dramatic fashion for Ajax. After just three minutes, a true thunderclap of cheering erupted as Callum McGregor brought the green and white clad team to the lead. Celtic’s number 42 had ample time and room to seek out his corner and shoot in the 1-0 goal from a long distance. Within fifteen minutes, Ajax was in a position to repair this damage. Amin Younes was unjustly called out for being offside, and Viktor Fischer’s spot-on goal was disqualified.
It was Fischer once again who had a key role again in the tying goal midway through the first half. The Dane reacted alertly after a long distance shot from his countryman Schöne. Keeper Craig Gordon blocked his shot from the rebound, but after that, he had no answer for Arek Milik’s shot. The Pole scored from nearby: 1-1. Ten minutes later, Amin Younes had another great opportunity, but the German player sent the ball high over the goal.
Although Ajax was the better team, that didn’t change the score in the first forty-five minutes. Moreover, it was Celtic that almost scored another goal before halftime. Leigh Griffiths passed to Tom Rogic, who in turn found Jasper Cillessen in his path – as well as the linesman, who flagged him for being offside.
After the break, it took quite some time before there was any action in front of either goal. James Forrest had the first opportunity for Celtic midway through the second half. It was the first opportunity for a Scottish offense that held strong until fifteen minutes before time. McGregor, who had scored the 1-0 goal, saw his shot change direction and land on top of the crossbar. A few minutes later, Cillessen heroically saved an attempt by Griffiths.
Van de Beek’s debut
In the meantime, De Boer had brought in a few fresh reinforcements. Vaclav Cerny and Van de Beek (18), making his debut, brought the average age down. And with Yaya Sanogo in for Mike van der Hoorn, Ajax was going for broke in the last few minutes.
They hit jackpot. First, Amin Younes fired a warning shot against the post. In the 88th minute, it was Cerny who scored the liberating 1-2 goal. The young Czech celebrated his goal in front of the stands where 2.400 Ajax fans who had made the trip, and then he rushed to the bench where his goal was roundly celebrated. It was a goal worth its weight in gold. For the first time since 2011, Ajax won a European away game during the group phase. In two weeks, it will be seen how valuable this win will turn out to be.
Ajax: Cillessen, Tete, Van der Hoorn (80. Sanogo), Riedewald, Dijks, Klaassen, Schöne (72. Van de Beek), Gudelj, Fischer (68. Cerny), Milik, Younes.