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Celtic would have beaten Ajax but for red card - Deila

Nir Bitton fires home Celtic's first goal at the Amsterdam Arena on Thursday night
Picture: AP
From Ronnie Esplin in Amsterdam

RONNY DEILA claims Celtic would have beaten Ajax in their Europa League Group A opener in Amsterdam had Emilio Izaguirre not been sent-off - but was reluctant to criticise his full-back.

The Parkhead side looked in control of the match, leading 2-1 after right-back Mikael Lustig headed them into an interval lead in the 42nd minute. Ajax midfielder Viktor Fischer had previously cancelled out Nir Bitton's eighth-minute opener. 

However, when Izaguirre was dismissed in the 73rd minute by referee Luca Banti for picking up his second yellow of the night with a foul on Anwar El Ghazi, the home side came storming back against the 10-man Hoops. Substitute Lasse Schone made it 2-2 with a free-kick in the 84th minute, with the Scottish champions hanging on through four added minutes for a point.

Asked if he thought Celtic would have won with 11 men, the Norwegian said: "Yes, I am sure we would have done that because they didn't create anything. We were very comfortable and sat in and we could have made changes in the end to be even better in defence.

"When we had 11 against 11, we had very good control of the game. There are so many things in the game and that happens with everybody. Emilio has no record of having a lot of red cards. I personally think he played very well up until he got the red card. He took out maybe their best player the whole game.

"We created chances and defended as a team and I am very proud of the boys. But when we got down to 10 men, we had more difficulties, more crosses into our box but, over the whole game, a draw is okay and it is a very important point, it is always difficult to get points away."

Asked if he was tempted to substitute Izaguirre before what looked like an inevitable red card was shown, Deila, under some pressure after losing the top spot in the Ladbrokes Premiership to Aberdeen with a 2-1 defeat by the Dons at Pittodrie last Saturday, said: "It was a very difficult decision to think if I had to take him off.

"I think he had very good control of El Ghazi in the first half. He didn't do anything. Also, we had players with cramps and we had players who had not played so much and needed to change.

"I couldn't understand why he got the first yellow card, but that happened and we can't do anything about it. For me, it's attitude, discipline, organisation and the boys showed me that they really wanted to fight. We got one point away in Amsterdam and that could be important at the end of the group.

"Everyone knows we are a good team and can play good football, but today we needed performance and some confidence and, if you can back that up with points, it makes it easy. We got a point, it could have been three, but we had a good performance and that gives us a lot of energy and confidence."

"We really want to beat Ajax at Celtic Park, but everything is about performances and players and they showed great attitude. The players showed that they can bounce back. We got a point and now it is to get ready for Sunday and start winning games in the league as well." 

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