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Ibrahimovic goal enough for Ajax

Published: Wednesday 22 October 2003, 22.58CET
AFC Ajax 1-0 RC Celta de Vigo Zlatan Ibrahimovic's winner takes Ajax to the top of Group H.

Match statistics


Goals scored1
Attempts on target3
Attempts off target5
Fouls committed15
Yellow cards0
Red cards0


Published: Wednesday 22 October 2003, 22.58CET

Ibrahimovic goal enough for Ajax

AFC Ajax 1-0 RC Celta de Vigo Zlatan Ibrahimovic's winner takes Ajax to the top of Group H.

By Marcus Christenson at the Amsterdam ArenA

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's goal early in the second half gave AFC Ajax a 1-0 victory which sent them to the top of UEFA Champions League Group H - and left RC Celta de Vigo without a win from their first three games.

Ajax above Milan
AC Milan's surprise defeat at home by Club Brugge KV allowed Ajax to leapfrog the holders at the summit of the group, and meant Celta fell to last place with only two points.

Depleted defence
Ajax were without central defender Julien Escudé, so the 20-year-old Jelle Van Damme deputised alongside Finnish international Petri Pasanen. Celta, meanwhile, were missing the suspended José Ignacio as well as South American trio Gustavo López, Edu and Vagner. Peter Luccin, however, returned from a ban.

Early threat
Ajax, who won 2-0 on Matchday 2 against Club Brugge KV, started furiously and Ibrahimovic rose above a static Celta defence to connect with a Wesley Sneijder free-kick, but his header went wide. At the other end, Savo Milosevic created the away side's first chance in the eleventh minute as he burst into the Ajax area, but his attempt was thwarted by blocking defenders. Luccin then dragged his follow-up wide.

Sylvinho run
Celta slowly worked their way into the game and threatened again in the 21st minute when full-back Sylvinho set off on a commanding run which included a clever one-two with Milosevic and was only stopped by the hands of Ajax goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont.

Pasanen catches up
Then Juanfran raced clear in the 35th minute to create the best chance of the half following a clever flick from Milosevic, but Pasanen recovered lost ground and cleared with a desperate challenge. José Manuel Pinto in the Celta goal, meanwhile, was almost caught unawares seven minutes later when Ibrahimovic cleverly deflected Steven Pienaar's low shot, only for the ball to fly just wide.

Van der Vaart blow
Celta certainly ended the half stronger and Juanfran had a further chance when put through by Juan Velasco; his shot from inside the box lacked the power to beat Lobont. And there was more bad news for Ajax as they lost captain Rafael van der Vaart to an injury, to be replaced by young Romanian Nicolae Mitea.

Decisive goal
But only eight minutes after half-time, Ibrahimovic scored what proved to be the winner for the home side. Picking up the ball on the edge of the box, he ran past Argentinian central defensive pair Fernando Cáceres and Eduardo Berizzo and shot into the bottom right-hand corner for his fifth goal in eleven Champions League games.

Celta chances
Just after the hour, Berizzo went close to equalising, but his header was tipped over by Lobont. Play was now flowing from end to end, and Milosevic saw a header go over the bar 15 minutes from the end.

Home side secure points
The home side, though, played the game out, and with news of Milan's defeat, Ajax now know that victory in Vigo on 4 November could leave them within touching distance of the quarter-finals. Only a revenge win will do on Matchday 4 for Celta, though.

Last updated: 23/10/03 11.02CET