Celtic 1-2 Ajax: Ronny Deila's side crash out of Europa League
Last Updated: 27/11/15 9:43am
Celtic were sent crashing out of the Europa League after a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Ajax on Thursday night.
Returning midfielder Callum McGregor gave the hosts the perfect start in just the fourth minute, curling a shot from the edge of the penalty area beyond the dive of Jasper Cillessen.
The Dutch side recovered thanks to Arkadiusz Milik's 21st-minute leveller and Celtic, who had chances for victory through Leigh Griffiths, were left stunned in the 88th minute with Vaclav Cerny's breakway winner, although Fenerbahce's win against already-qualified Molde made the result academic.
The result leaves Celtic rooted to the bottom of Group A with just two points from five matches but Ajax kept their qualification hopes alive and will need a favour from Ronny Deila's men, who travel to Istanbul to face Fenerbahce on Matchday Six.
Celtic had been left with something of a midfield crisis after it was revealed on Wednesday that skipper Scott Brown could be out for up to three months with a knee injury.
With Kris Commons also suffering from a hamstring complaint and illness, and Nir Bitton and Stefan Johansen suspended, Deila handed McGregor a rare start with Gary Mackay-Steven also coming in and 18-year-old left-back Kieran Tierney replacing the more experienced Emilio Izaguirre.
However, the home side got off to a dream start with the McGregor, making his first start in two months, despatching a shot from 20 yards into the bottom corner.
It was a shock to the visitors' system but they got themselves back into the game when Viktor Fischer took advantage of a deflected strike from Lasse Schone which landed in his path inside the box. Craig Gordon managed to beat away Schone's close-range strike, but he headed the rebound back across goal where Polish striker Milik knocked it over the line.
Celtic retreated towards the end of the first half as revitalised Ajax probed and prodded and just before the break, winger Amin Younes curled a shot just over the bar.
After the break, both sides looked nervy as the prospect of elimination dawned but it was Celtic who had the better of the chances as the half wore on.
In the 64th minute, Charlie Mulgrew, back for the first time in over two months after recovering from a thigh injury, replaced Tom Rogic, just after Cillessen had made a save from James Forrest's low drive.
Seconds later, Celtic went close again as McGregor's deflected drive from 25 yards hit the bar.
With the game drawing to a close, Mackay-Steven was replaced by Scott Allan, who moments later put Griffiths through on goal only for Cillessen to block his shot.
Izaguirre replaced Tierney in the 77th minute by which time Celtic had the bit between their teeth and Ajax looked tired.
With five minutes remaining, after Cillessen had made a comfortable save from Griffiths, the impressive Younes crashed a shot against Gordon's post before Ajax broke and Cerny, on for Fischer, drove in number two to end Celtic's Europa League campaign.