Celtic 2-1 Ajax: Hoops Keep Champions League Hopes Alive After Battling to Victory

Celtic 2-1 AjaxCeltic entered their third European match of the season needing three points to keep their Champions League hopes alive after losing to AC Milan and Barcelona in their first two games. Ajax weren’t in much of a better position having only taken a solitary point from meetings with Barcelona and Milan.

The match began with Ajax passing the ball around but not doing an awful lot with it for the first 10 minutes or so. The first real chance of the game came to Celtic when, on the 13th minute, Mikel Lustig drilled a low cross into the front post for the perfectly timed run of Teemu Pukki, who couldn’t get the necessary contact on the fast-paced ball to divert it towards the goal. That signaled the start of a much more open game, and just a minute later, Sigthórsson found himself space on the right wing after Izaguirre wandered out of position into the center of the pitch, but his cross could only find the grateful arms of Fraser Forster.

In the first 25 minutes, Ajax did not make their majority possession pay, but soon after, an out-swinging free kick from the right wing was flicked on by an Ajax head to be turned away at the back post by Lustig. If the Swede had faltered, it almost certainly would have ended in a goal. A few minutes, later a free kick taken from the same side fell to Poulsen, who drifted away from Mulgrew at the back post but could do no more than rattle the crossbar.

This led to a period of sustained pressure from the Dutch side, but they failed to create anything from it. The 33rd minute saw arguably the most important tackle from a Celtic player all night. After a Mulgrew free kick was cleared, Ajax raced away on the counter, Kayal kept up and, as the last line of defence, made a sliding tackle and the danger was cleared. If he’d mistimed it, the referee would have had an easy decision to make in sending the Israeli off.

There were a couple of half chances for Celtic over the following 10 minutes but nothing of real note. A minute before half time, a Stokes corner came to Samaras’ feet, who played the ball back to Stokes. The Irishman took a clever touch past Denswil who, fouled Stokes inside the penalty area, and the referee gave a penalty.

Celtic 2-1 AjaxDebate ensued between players of both sides and the referee over the placing of the ball on the spot, with Poulsen and Veltmen booked for Ajax and van Dijk shown a card for Celtic. With normal penalty taker Kris Commons in the stands after sustaining an injury against Hibs, 22 year-old James Forrest stepped up and dispatched the spot kick expertly past Cillessen’s fingertips.

The second half started without much action other than a clearly confident James Forrest terrorizing the Ajax defense. On the 53rd minutes, Serero played a clever one-two with Sigthórsson just outside the box and came one-on-one with Forster. The goalkeeper did brilliantly to keep the ball out but there’s no doubt that Serero should have done better, leading to a Celtic counter-attack and a blocked Samaras shot that fell to Beram Kayal 25 yards out. The midfielder side-footed the ball towards the goal, what looked like an easy save for Cillessen was deflected off of Denswil’s right boot and into the left-hand corner of the net.

Over the next half hour, Ajax found Celtic’s line to be impenetrable and had to resort to long-range efforts. Two minutes before the final whistle, Celtic substitute Nir Biton slid in high on Serero and the referee didn’t hesitate in showing the 21 year-old a red card. It was a dangerous, needless tackle, and a sending off was probably the right call.

From then on, Ajax piled on the pressure and in the fourth minute of added time got their reward as a long-range shot from Lasse Schöne sailed into the top corner. It proved to only be a consolation, and as soon as Celtic took the kick-off the referee blew for full time. A stretched Celtic squad were rewarded for a fine display with a deserved three points.

Written by Sean Currie

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Norwich Sign Ricky van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon in Club Record £8.5m Deal

Ricky van WolfswinkelRicky van Wolfswinkel has finally made his switch to the Premier League in favor of a move to Norwich City. The deal for the Canaries to sign the Dutch striker had been agreed a few months before the summer transfer window had opened, and as I have watched him during his time in Portugal at Sporting Lisbon, I know that Norwich have bagged themselves a very good striker in van Wolfswinkel. I am a fond admirer of Sporting Lisbon and was gutted that he was leaving the Alvalade club, but I was also pleased that he was finally getting the move that he deserved.

Van Wolfswinkel isn’t the quickest striker around, but he has a good aerial ability and is able to get into good spaces for his teammates to pick him out with a cross. He also has quite a decent strike rate, not just at Sporting Lisbon, but during his time in Holland at FC Utrecht and Vitesse Arnhem. Still, at the early age of 24, he has plenty of time to establish himself in the Premier League as a top striker and also at the international level, where he will look to boost his chances of making the Holland squad in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.

The Dutchman’s strike rate has gradually been improving each season - rising from an average of 1/4 goals per game in 2009 to over 3/4 per game in 2013 - and he is becoming more prolific in front of goal. This is probably something Norwich looked at when they were signing him. They recognized his potential and very potent style as a striker, and Norwich know that he will give them goals and will add to their strike force after struggling to find the net at times during last season. Norwich’s lack of flair in the attacking end meant that they were threatening relegation at times last season as well.

Ricky van Wolfswinkel isn’t the most physical of players, so adapting to the physical side of the English game may take him some time, and he will have to bulk up and spend time in the gym working on his upper body strength in order to compete with the Premier League defenders. His movement is one of his biggest strengths, as he finds pockets of space in and around the 18-yard area to create a scoring opportunity for himself. He is able to move away from defenders and his markers to enable his teammates to find him.

Ricky van WolfswinkelThis is something which I had identified whilst he was at Sporting, and I have been a huge admirer of his style of play since I started watching him. Here is what Ricky van Wolfswinkel said about his exciting move to Norwich City:

“The coach (Chris Hughton) when I met him first made a good connection with me. That was the first thing. There was not really a lot to think about. I got a great impression. This move has come at the right time for me. Yes, perfect.”

“I started out in Holland, which is very technical football. Portugal is perhaps somewhere in between that style and England. I think my next step to Norwich and the Premier League is perfect. I am confident of scoring goals. That is part and parcel of my job but the most important thing for me is I am a team player. If I play well then I expect to score goals and I want to do both.”

“These are my qualities that I want to show. I know they say Portuguese football is more technical and the English more physical so I may have to make a few changes. It’s normal. I had the same when I first left Holland for Portugal. It will be different but I am not the type of player who needs much time to develop.”

At Norwich, van Wolfswinkel will only continue his progression as a player and I have no doubt that he will make an impression at Carrow Road. Providing he receives the right service, he will take his chances. At Sporting Lisbon, he was provided with chances by the likes of Bruma and Diego Capel, whose service was of a very good quality in order for Ricky to get the goals he needed. I for one am not surprised he made an impression on Norwich, as his ever improving strike rate speaks for itself. His intelligence and movement as a player is also of a high quality, so I really think Norwich have made a real coup in the signing of Ricky van Wolfswinkel.

Written by OneFutbol