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Celta ride Ajax comeback

RC Celta de Vigo 3-2 AFC Ajax The home side secure a first win in the competition despite a late scare.

RC Celta de Vigo survived a second-half AFC Ajax comeback to gain their first-ever UEFA Champions League victory.

Deserved lead
First-half goals from Peter Luccin and Savo Milosevic had given the hosts a 2-0 lead, before Wesley Sonck pulled a goal back. With Ajax pouring forward Vagner scored a crucial third before Rafael van der Vaart set home nerves jangling in the closing stages with a fine solo strike. However, the hosts showed discipline in the closing stages to move off the foot of Group H.

Ajax vulnerable
Ajax looked to take their game to the Spanish side from the start, but in committing numbers forward they made themselves vulnerable at the back. With seven minutes played Fernando Cáceres, the veteran defender, burst forward from the back, played a one-two with Milosevic before setting up Aleksandr Mostovoi. The Russian's shot was well blocked by a sliding Julien Escudé.

Penalty paid
With Ajax growing in confidence, Celta produced a sucker punch. Milosevic seemed to be isolated as he cut into the box from the right, but he managed to beat defender Abubakari Yakubu with some neat footwork, and the Ghanaian international defender brought the striker down to concede a penalty. Van der Vaart was booked for dissent, meaning he will miss the next game, before Luccin stepped up to drill the ball past Bogdan Lobont.

Milosevic converts
Ronald Koeman's side seemed shocked to fall behind and the tempo of the game slowed, with only a long-range Zlatan Ibrahimovic effort giving the visitors hope. But it was Celta who were looking the more likely scorers and on 39 minutes, they grabbed their second goal. Sylvinho's expert cross from the left picked out Milosevic, and the Serbo-Montenegrin international made no mistake.

Post struck
Celta came out flying in the second half. Milosevic was only denied by a superb sliding challenge by Escudé with only seconds gone. With Ajax's defence still reeling, Juanfran sent a header against the post with Lobont completely beaten. The pressure only eased when Luccin sent an effort wide of the goal.

Close call
Then Ajax, seemingly out of the game, came back into it with a flurry of attacks. First Nicolae Mitea - making his first Champions League appearance - cut inside his man and crossed low for Van der Vaart. The Ajax captain did not make clean contact and his marker, Sylvinho, almost put into his own net before clearing off the line.

Sonck header
On 53 minutes, the visitors pulled a goal back. Maxwell did well on the left, beating his man before delivering a pinpoint cross which was met by Sonck, and the Belgian striker's firm downward header gave José Manuel Pinto no chance. Four minutes later and Ajax were almost level, Pinto tipping Yakubu's header against his own crossbar.

Vagner strikes
But it was Celta's turn to score against the run of play. Brazilian midfield player Vagner showed power and pace as he brushed off the challenge of Yakubu before slotting the ball low into the goal past the advancing Lobont on 63 minutes. Five minutes later, Lobont pulled off an excellent save to deny Juanfran after clever work from Milosevic.

Final twist
There was time for a final twist, however. With only eight minutes left on the clock, Van der Vaart showed some individual brilliance to get his side back into the game. The Dutch international skipped cleverly past Sergio Fernández before driving a low curling shot beyond the diving Pinto. However, Ajax have now been overhauled as group leaders by AC Milan, and are only a point ahead of Celta.