Ajax 2-1 Barcelona: Ajax seal European stay

Andres Iniesta vies for the ball with Ajax Amsterdam's Danish midfielder Christian Poulsen. Picture: Getty
Andres Iniesta vies for the ball with Ajax Amsterdam's Danish midfielder Christian Poulsen. Picture: Getty
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Ajax kept themselves in contention for progress to the next round of the Champions League after becoming the first side to beat Barcelona this season with a 2-1 triumph in their Group H match last night.

Scorers: Ajax - Serero (19), Hoesen (41); Barcelona - Xavi (49 pen)

Bookings: Ajax - Van Rhijn, Veltman (sent off), Schone; Barcelona - Montoya, Pique, Iniesta, Fabregas, Neymar

Thulani Serero and Danny Hoesen scored to give Ajax a surprise half-time lead but straight after the break defender Joel Veltman was red carded for a tackle on Neymar and Xavi pulled a goal back from the penalty spot.

Injury-plagued Barcelona applied pressure in search of an equaliser but Ajax held out to thunderous applause from a capacity Amsterdam Arena.

Ajax stay third in the group, one point behind AC Milan, who they must now beat away on 11 December if they are to advance.

Barcelona, without injured Lionel Messi, still need one point in their final match against Celtic to make sure of top place in the group but were already through to the knockout phase before last night’s game.

It was young Serero, the young South African, who gave Ajax a surprise lead last night. Ricardo van Rhijn crossed from the right and the ball evaded all the Barcelona defenders, allowing Serero to sidefoot into the corner of the net from around ten yards out.

There were incredible scenes inside the Amsterdam Arena three minutes before half-time when the hosts doubled their lead. Barcelona give away the ball on the edge of the area and Viktor Fischer’s initial effort was palmed away by Jose Manuel Pinto but Danny Hoesen held his nerve by taking a touch and firing in from around ten yards.

It appeared to most observers that the Barcelona comeback was on when Veltman received his red card and Xavi converted from the spot just four minutes after the break but it wasn’t to be. Ajax showed some nerves as the second half progressed but Barca couldn’t take any of their chances and Frank de Boer’s side held on for a precious three points. Even more precious when news of the Celtic result filtered through.

Ajax: Cillessen, Van Rhijn, Veltman, Moisander, Boilesen (Poulsen 35), Klaassen, Blind, Serero, Schone (Denswil 51), Hoesen (Duarte 83), Fischer. Subs not used: Vermeer, Van der Hoorn, Andersen, De Sa.

Barcelona: Pinto, Puyol (Gabarron 68), Mascherano, Pique, Montoya, Xavi (Sergi Roberto 73), Song, Iniesta, Pedro, Fabregas (Traore 81), Neymar. Subs not used: Oier, Bartra, Busquets, Dongou.

Referee: P Kralovec (Cze).

Att: 52,000.