Europa League - Group A
CelticCeltic1AjaxAjax2
By Alasdair LamontBBC Scotland at Celtic Park
Arkadiusz Milik scores for Ajax at Celtic Park
Arkadiusz Milik levelled for Ajax with a bicycle kick

Celtic exited the Europa League at the group stage as Ajax grabbed a late victory on Thursday night.

A typically energetic start to the game brought an excellent early breakthrough from Callum McGregor on three minutes.

But Ajax drew level as carelessness led to Arkadiusz Milik converting acrobatically from close range.

As Celtic pressed hard in the closing stages, Leigh Griffiths and Charlie Mulgrew spurned chances and Vaclav Cerny broke away to score.

Celtic going backwards?

Celtic's third group defeat leaves them out of Europe and bottom of Group A with just two points.

Manager Ronny Deila has continually spoken of encouraging signs, despite the lack of positive results in Europe.

And although they matched the Dutch league leaders for spells on Thursday, the bare facts are that Celtic are regressing in European terms.

In 25 European matches with Celtic, Deila has managed just eight wins, with four of those coming against part-time Icelandic sides.

Supporters seeking solace can point to an impressive cameo from Scott Allan and another solid display by Kieran Tierney against Ajax, but the normally reliable Leigh Griffiths misfired and he was not the only under-performer.

Callum McGregor scores for Celtic
Callum McGregor opened the scoring for Celtic with just three minutes gone

Bright start

Nonetheless, spurred on by a noisy support, Celtic came out of the traps sharply and gave the bulk of the crowd reason to get to their feet.

Despite an unfamiliar midfield set-up, with just Tom Rogic acting as the pivot between defence and the attacking players, Celtic immediately looked comfortable.

A confident flick by Stuart Armstrong found Rogic, who in turn fed Gary Mackay-Steven. He threaded a beautiful pass for McGregor, who belied his recent lack of first-team action as he strode confidently forward before curling a perfectly-placed shot beyond the diving Jasper Cillessen.

Just as they had in previous European ties this season against Malmo, Fenerbahce and Molde, they had made the ideal start.

Familiar failings

Unfortunately, another recurring theme was soon to emerge.

Ajax served notice of their own desperation for the points as Viktor Fischer slammed the ball into the net, only for Amin Younes to be wrongly flagged offside.

The equaliser was not delayed much longer, though, and this time a lack of match sharpness may have hampered McGregor as his heavy touch ceded possession.

The Dutch got the break of the ball as Schone's shot was deflected into the path of Fischer, who was able to head the rebound from his own effort across goal where Milik hitch-kicked the ball into the net.

As the game wore on, the reality of the situation seemed to spur Celtic on as they pressed for a winning goal and McGregor struck the bar while Griffiths was foiled on more than one occasion.

And with time running out, Allan, who had made such a positive impression as a substitute, was caught in possession and the Dutch broke, culminating in a clinical finish by Cerny.

The full-time whistle was greeted with boos as the Celtic support came to terms with an early European exit.

Ajax retain hopes of progressing, but they need to beat group leaders Molde, who have already qualified for the last 32, and hope Celtic can beat Fenerbahce in Istanbul, though on current form that appears a forlorn hope.

Line-ups

Celtic

  • 1Gordon
  • 23Lustig
  • 20Boyata
  • 5Simunovic
  • 63TierneySubstituted forIzaguirreat 78'minutes
  • 42McGregor
  • 18RogicSubstituted forMulgrewat 66'minutes
  • 14Armstrong
  • 49Forrest
  • 9Griffiths
  • 16Mackay-StevenSubstituted forAllanat 72'minutesBooked at 80mins

Substitutes

  • 3Izaguirre
  • 4Ambrose
  • 7Ciftci
  • 10Stokes
  • 19Allan
  • 21Mulgrew
  • 26Bailly

Ajax

  • 1Cillessen
  • 23TeteBooked at 77mins
  • 4van der HoornSubstituted forSanogoat 80'minutes
  • 22Riedewald
  • 35Dijks
  • 27Gudelj
  • 10Klaassen
  • 7FischerSubstituted forCernyat 69'minutes
  • 20SchöneSubstituted forvan de Beekat 72'minutes
  • 11Younes
  • 9Milik

Substitutes

  • 2van Rhijn
  • 5Heitinga
  • 19Sanogo
  • 26Viergever
  • 30van de Beek
  • 32Cerny
  • 33Boer
Referee:
Felix Zwayer
Attendance:
44,118

Match Stats

Home TeamCelticAway TeamAjax
Possession
Home41%
Away59%
Shots
Home14
Away18
Shots on Target
Home6
Away4
Corners
Home4
Away4
Fouls
Home7
Away12

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Celtic 1, Ajax 2.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Celtic 1, Ajax 2.

  3. Post update

    Attempt missed. Yaya Sanogo (Ajax) right footed shot from the right side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Vaclav Cerny.

  4. Post update

    Attempt saved. Vaclav Cerny (Ajax) left footed shot from very close range is saved in the top left corner.

  5. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Yaya Sanogo (Ajax) left footed shot from very close range is blocked. Assisted by Arkadiusz Milik.

  6. Post update

    Offside, Ajax. Nemanja Gudelj tries a through ball, but Yaya Sanogo is caught offside.

  7. Post update

    Attempt missed. Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.

  8. Post update

    Offside, Ajax. Arkadiusz Milik tries a through ball, but Yaya Sanogo is caught offside.

  9. Post update

    Foul by Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax).

  10. Post update

    Mikael Lustig (Celtic) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  11. Goal!

    Goal! Celtic 1, Ajax 2. Vaclav Cerny (Ajax) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Arkadiusz Milik following a fast break.

  12. Post update

    Corner, Celtic. Conceded by Kenny Tete.

  13. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Amin Younes (Ajax) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Nemanja Gudelj.

  14. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Nemanja Gudelj (Ajax) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Donny van de Beek.

  15. Post update

    Amin Younes (Ajax) hits the right post with a right footed shot from the left side of the box. Assisted by Vaclav Cerny.

  16. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Scott Allan with a cross.

  17. Post update

    Attempt missed. Amin Younes (Ajax) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Arkadiusz Milik.

  18. Post update

    Donny van de Beek (Ajax) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  19. Post update

    Foul by Scott Allan (Celtic).

  20. Post update

    Foul by Nemanja Gudelj (Ajax).