One week after a comfortable 4-0 victory over Partick Thistle in a first leg, quarter-final tie in the League Cup, Celtic faced tougher opposition in the European Cup, when Ajax arrived at Celtic Park on this day in 1982.
It was a first round, first leg tie and a crowd of 56,229 had turned up to see how Celtic, at that point top of the league table after three games, would cope with the Dutch stars. Manager Billy McNeill had put out what most people would have regarded as his strongest side – Bonner, McGrain, McAdam, Moyes, Reid, McStay, Burns, MacLeod, Provan, Nicholas, McGarvey – while the name of Johann Cryuff was the one catching the attention in the Ajax side.
In only 4 minutes, the visitors took the lead through inside-left Olsen; ten minutes later, Celtic equalised from the penalty spot through Charlie Nicholas after Cruyff, of all people, had up-ended Tommy Burns well inside the penalty area; in 18 minutes, Ajax went 2-1 up, Cruyff steering a fine pass through the Hoops defence into the path of Lerby, who chipped the ball over Pat Bonner; and Frank McGarvey made it 2-2 in 27 minutes, latching on to a Davie Moyes header and shooting under the Dutch goalkeeper.
After that exciting first half-hour, the match rather went into stalemate, with the defensive modes of both sides proving stronger than the attacking ones. Celtic should perhaps been awarded a penalty when Tommy Burns was sent tumbling but overall, it was felt that a draw was about the right result and both managers were fairly happy with the outcome.
It had been good performance by Celtic in particular but would it be enough to survive an Ajax onslaught in the second leg?