Champions League wrap: Celtic bounced; Benfica, Ajax through

AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
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We’re one round away from the group stage following a busy Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.

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Some big names will not be there, as former champions Celtic failed to get a result in Greece and Fenerbahce could not find a way past Benfica.

Spartak Trnava 1-2 AET (2-3 agg.) Red Star Belgrade

Quite a game, this one.

To start, the second leg saw both sides match the first leg’s result after just seven minutes. The Slovakian hosts scored through Marek Bakos in the 6th minute, but were level when El Fardou Ben Nabouhane scored the next minute.

No goals came over the final 83 minutes, but Nemanja Radonjic bagged a goal for Red Star in the 98th minute to send the Serbians through to the playoff round.

AEK Athens 2-1 (3-2 agg.) Celtic

Brendan Rodgers men have failed to reach the group stage after slipping behind 2-0 in Greece and finding only a Scott Sinclair goal over the final 40 minutes.

Rodgers has publicly criticized the board’s recruitment of players, with some speculating his time could be short at Celtic Park.

But the boss of the top Glaswegian team says the loss wasn’t about the behind the scenes, just poor defending.

“We’ve got to stop the cross for the first and the second is poor defending. We gave ourselves a chance and threw everything at it. I thought a lot of our build-up play was worth something from the game but you can’t defend that softly. I still felt this was a game in which we had more than enough to win but you have to defend better than we did. We gave AEK a lot of problems but you have to defend properly and we didn’t do that.”

Celtic will need to beat the winner of the tie between Latvia’s Spartaks Jurmala and Lithuania’s Suduva Marijampole — Suduva leads 1-0 heading into Thursday’s second leg — for the right to play in the Europa League’s group stage. Those matches are Aug. 23 and 30.

Ajax 3-0 (5-2 agg.) Standard Liege

Ajax boss Erik ten Hag was not content with its two away goal lead, and crushed its Belgian visitors with goals from Klaas-Jan Hunterlaar, Matthijs de Ligt, and David Neres.

MOL Vidi 0-0 (1-1 agg.) Malmo

American midfielder Romain Gall sees his UCL campaign end, an 11-minute substitute performance not enough to help his Swedish visitors to a winner. MOL Vidi — long called Videoton — moves onto the playoff.

Elsewhere
Dynamo Kiev 2-0 (3-1 agg.) Slavia Prague
BATE Borisov 1-1 (2-1 agg.) Qarabag
Spartak Moscow 0-0 (2-3 agg.) PAOK Salonika
Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 (3-0 agg.) FC Astana
Fenerbahce 1-1 (1-2 agg.) Benfica
Shkendija 0-1 (0-4 agg.) RB Salzburg

Playoff round
BATE Borisov vs. PSV Eindhoven
Young Boys vs. Dinamo Zagreb
MOL Vidi vs. AEK Athens
Benfica vs. PAOK Salonika
Ajax vs. Dynamo Kyiv