Netherlands side Ajax hosted Spanish giants FC Barcelona today in a must-win match to keep their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage alive. AC Milan, ahead of Ajax by a single point, thumped Celtic by three goals in Group H's other match today, which meant that a loss would eliminate them from the competition. Due to goal differential, a draw would signal the end as well. All they had to do was beat one of the three top teams in the world, though, and they still had a chance.
Shockingly, that's what the Dutchmen did. Ajax lost to the Spaniards 4-0 in their first meeting this year, but players Thulani Serero and Danny Hoesen both scored in the first half against the flat-footed Barça, who were playing without their injured superstar Lionel Messi. Four minutes into the second half, though, an Ajax player was shown the red card for fouling Neymar in the box, and Barcelona midfielder Xavi halved the deficit. But they lacked bite in the final third, and Ajax held on to win at home.
Now it gets fun. Barcelona have 10 points from five matches, while Milan have eight, and Ajax have seven. Ajax travel to Italy in two weeks in the final group stage match, and to advance, they need a win. If Milan win or draw they're through to the final 16. If Ajax pull out the win, though, they're through. There's also a scenario where Milan could win the group, but Barcelona would most likely have to lose to Celtic in Spain, who have nothing to play for. We'll see what happens in two weeks.