Celtic dominated possession and territory for the opening 45 minutes, with the Ajax gameplan to simply absorb the pressure and play on the counter.
As early as the fourth minute, the Bloemfontein side created an opening, but Deon Hotto hoofed the ball high over the bar. Minutes later, though, Hotto was in on goal again, but this time he was denied by a great save from Ajax goalkeeper Brandon Petersen. Petersen was later also called on to make another acrobatic stop from a Ndumiso Mabena effort to make sure that his team stayed in the game.
At the other end, the Capetonians had to make do with the crumbs they had on the transition, with Zambian Rodrick Kabwe particularly in the thick of things.
The left-wing whipped in a dangerous-looking cross, with Ivorian striker Yannick Zakri ready to pounce, but Celtic goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb was able to deal with the danger. Kabwe also produced another great cross for Zakri, but the Ivorian could only direct his header over the bar.
Both teams made a change at the start of the second half, with Roscoe Pietersen replaced by Siboniso Gaxa for Ajax, and Celtic’s Victor Letsoalo coming in for Menzi Masuku. It was the home side, however, who quickly made an impact when they took the lead in the 51st minute with a sweet finish from Ronald Pfumbidzai.
Having gone behind, Ajax had no choice but to come out and play. They made two more substitutions to spark things, with Grant Margeman replacing Toriq Losper and Tendai Ndoro on for Zakri.
Margeman was in the mood and, when he powered in a left foot drive, it needed a fantastic save from Tignyemb to prevent the midfielder from equalising. Ajax kept on pressing, but were unable to break down the resolute Celtic defence.
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