Ajax 2-2 Celtic: Hosts leave it late to deny 10-man Celtic victory
Last Updated: 18/09/15 10:51am
Lasse Schone's 84th minute free-kick denied the 10 men of Celtic victory as Ajax fought back for a 2-2 draw in their Europa League clash at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Ronny Deila's men got off to the perfect start as Nir Bitton's eighth minute strike gave his side the early advantage, but Ajax hit back midway through the first half thanks to Viktor Fischer.
The visitors were back in front just before the break as Mikael Lustig headed Kris Commons' corner into the back of the net and they were in full control until Emilio Izaguirre received his marching orders for two bookable offences with 16 minutes remaining.
Ajax finally pulled level with just six minutes left on the clock as Schone's free-kick evaded everyone to nestle in the far corner and hand the home side a share of the spoils on matchday one.
Deila reacted to Celtic's league defeat to Aberdeen by making four changes with Commons, Izaguirre and James Forrest joining debutant Jozo Simunovic, who joined on deadline day from Dinamo Zagreb, in the starting line-up.
And the visitors made the perfect start, winning the ball back high up the field and allowing Commons to release Bitton, who fired a low shot past Jasper Cillessen.
Ajax were stunned but gradually got a foothold in the game with Fischer and Davy Klaassen pulling the strings for Frank de Boer's men.
And they were back on level terms in the 25th minute when Amin Younes went past Lustig with ease before slipping the ball to Klaassen, whose clever flick to Fischer was fired past the diving Craig Gordon from the edge of the box.
Fischer had another opportunity just five minutes later when Anwar El Ghazi pulled the ball back to him on the edge of the area, however the 21-year-old could not produce the same quality, pulling his shot wide.
Despite Ajax's dominance, Celtic responded well and should have been in front in the 39th minute when Leigh Griffiths' weak strike failed to beat the diving Cillessen at his near post.
However, the Scottish champions were back in the lead just before the interval when Ajax switched off to allow Lustig to powerfully head Commons' corner into the back of the net.
After the break it was a similar story as Ajax dominated possession but it was Celtic looking the more likely to extend their lead.
The home fans were becoming frustrated as the visitors continued to restrict Ajax and threaten on the counter-attack through Commons, who picked out Griffiths at the far post. However, the striker could only find the side netting with his volley.
Celtic were comfortable but the game completely changed when Izaguirre got his marching orders in the 74th minute.
The Honduras international, booked just after the break for a challenge on Kenny Tete, was allowed a couple more fouls before referee Luca Banti deemed his trip on El Ghazi to be one too many, leaving Celtic to replace Forrest with defender Tyler Blackett and fight with 10 men.
Ajax were pressing for an equaliser as substitute Arkadiusz Milik, on for Younes, hit the post with a header in the 79th minute, after Klaassen had gone close, also with a header.
Celtic were finally undone when Schone, on for Fischer in the 75th minute, fired in a free-kick from wide on the left which beat everyone, including Gordon, and ended up in the net.
Milik headed just over as Ajax threw everything forward looking for the winner but the Hoops held out for four minutes of added time, although they will look at Izaguirre's dismissal as the cause of a nervy ending.
Up next for Celtic is a home clash against Fenerbahce, who suffered a shock 3-1 defeat at home to Molde.