Amsterdam - Ajax gave their chances of qualifying for the Champions League last
16 a huge boost as they beat Barcelona 2-1 on Tuesday despite playing
almost the entire second-half with 10 men.
WRAP: Champions League
First-half goals from Thulani Serero and Danny Hoessen had the hosts well in command at the break.
Barca were back in the game minutes after the restart as Joel Veltman
was sent off for bringing down Neymar inside the area and Xavi converted
the resulting spot-kick.
Barca then pressed for an equaliser, but
failed to breakdown a stubborn Ajax backline as they slipped to a first
defeat in any competition this season.
AC Milan's 3-0 win away to
Celtic in the other game in Group H means the Dutch side remain third, a
point behind Milan, and will need to win in Italy when the two sides
meet in two weeks' time to progress.
Despite injuries to a series
of key players, including Lionel Messi, and having already qualified for
the knockout stages, Barca boss Gerardo Martino still named a strong
However, the Catalans were forced back from the off by a young Ajax side full of energy and quality on the ball.
Manuel Pinto got down well to his left to save Viktor Fischer's effort
after 11 minutes, but there was nothing the stand-in 'keeper could do to
prevent Serero opening the scoring eight minutes later as he turned
home Ricardo Van Rhijn's low cross.
Barca should have been level
six minutes later when Neymar was released through on goal by Pedro, but
the Brazilian dragged his shot well off target.
Lasse Schone then
forced Pinto into another smart save, but the Barca defence was
breached for a second time four minutes before half-time.
again did well to parry Fischer's first effort, but Hoessen reacted
quicker than the statuesque Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol to double the
Dutch champions' advantage.
Barca were handed a lifeline just two
minutes after the restart when Veltman brought down Neymar just inside
the area and was sent off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Xavi took responsibility from the spot in Messi's absence and sent Jasper Cillessen the wrong way.
should have levelled seven minutes later when he was played in by a
wonderful pass from Xavi, but Cillessen just got enough on his lofted
effort to turn it behind.
The scarcity of options on offer to
Martino given Barca's current injury crisis was demonstrated as he
introduced youngsters Patric, Sergi Roberto and Adama Traore from the
bench as they searched for an equaliser.
But they failed to create
another clear chance in front of goal as Martino tasted defeat for the
first time in 21 games since taking charge in July.