James Forrest
Celtic's James Forrest celebrates scoring the opening goal against Ajax. Reuters

Celtic kept their hopes alive of making it through to the Champions League knockout phase with a 2-1 win over Ajax at Celtic Park. The Scottish champions first points in Group H came courtesy of goals in an eight minute spell either side of half time from a James Forrest penalty and Baram Kayal’s deflected strike. Lasse Schone pulled one back for the Dutch visitors deep into injury time.

The win lifts Celtic above the solitary point of Ajax and into third place in the standings, trailing Milan on five points and Barcelona on seven after a 1-1 draw in the group’s other game in Italy. Celtic and Ajax meet again in Amsterdam in two weeks’ time with both sides realistically needing a victory to remain in contention for a last-16 place. Even if a top two berth proves beyond them, the result aids Celtic’s chances to at least finish above Ajax and claim a Champions League place.

With the odds stacked against them after defeats to Milan and Barcelona, it was vital that Neil Lennon’s side got the win in Glasgow. And as the first half came to a close, they were given a chance to score a crucial opening goal from the spot. Ajax defender Stefano Denswil clumsily clipped the legs of Anthony Stokes as he burst past him down the left side of the area. Forrest struck the spot kick confidently into the top corner, beating the dive of Jasper Cillessen.

And there was further joy for the majority inside Celtic Park eight minutes after the break. Greek forward Georgios Samaras evaded challenges with ease moving toward the byline down the left, before cutting back and firing across goal. The ball was blocked back to Kayal 25 yards out and the midfielder’s side-foot effort took a crucial deflection off of the leg of Denswil right in front of Cillessen.

Celtic's night was marred somewhat when Nir Briton was shown a red card less than 10 minutes after coming on as a substitute for a reckless challenge on Thulani Serero. And minutes later Ajax pulled a goal back with a fine effort from Schone, striking cleanly past an unmoved Fraser Forster from 20 yards, but it was too little too late for Frank de Boer’s side.

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