Turkey will host Champions League final in August

Ajax held while Celtic and FC Basel hold upper hand in Champions League


Ajax had to settle for a draw while Celtic and FC Basel were among the winners as the final six Champions League third qualifying first leg ties were played on Wednesday evening.

Ajax threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at Rapid Vienna -- the lowest-ranked side in the non-champions half of the draw.

Davy Klaassen scored twice in the first half to seemingly put Ajax in control of the tie, but three minutes after the break Florian Kainz reduced the arrears.

The Austrian club suffered a setback when Stefan Schwab was sent off for a horrendous two-footed lunge in the 59th minute, but rather than wilt they fought back to take a draw to the Netherlands next week when Robert Beric netted in the 75th minute.

Celtic made hard work of their tie against Azerbaijan's Qarabag FK at Celtic Park. The game looked to be headed for a stalemate only for Dedryck Boyata to provide a slender 1-0 win with a goal in the 82nd minute.

The home side put in an insipid, error-strewn first-half performance in the first-leg of the third round qualifier to give the Azerbaijan champions plenty of encouragement.

Ronny Deila's men improved after the break but aside from a great save by Qarabag keeper Ibrahim Sehic from a Virgil van Dijk header, they posed little threat until the 82nd minute when the former Manchester City defender, recruited in the summer, headed in a corner from substitute Kris Commons.

The Scottish champions have the goal to defend in the return game in Baku next Wednesday night -- and they will be grateful for it -- although on the evidence of the first-leg the tie is far from over.

FC Basel are in total command of their tie against Lech Poznan after securing a 3-1 lead to take back to Switzerland next week. Michael Lang gave Basel a 34th-minute lead only for Denis Thomalla to level almost immediately.

But the home side's hopes suffered a blow in the 66th minute when Tomasz Kedziora was sent off, and Marc Janko restored Basel's advantage 13 minutes from time. Davide Calla netted the third in the dying moments, though Basel were also then reduced to 10 men themselves when Taulant Xhaka saw red.

Austrian club Salzburg put one foot into the final qualifying round with a 2-0 win at home to Malmo, who reached the group stage last season. Andreas Ulmer gave them the lead six minutes after the interval, and a late penalty from Martin Hinteregger completed the victory.

Honours were even in Romania as Steaua Bucharest and Partizan Belgrade drew 1-1. Miroslav Vulicevic gave the visitors the lead in the 62nd minute, but nine minutes from time Fernando Varela popped up to force the draw.

HJK Helsinki and FC Astana drew 0-0 in Finland, meaning it's all to play for when the two teams line up again in Kazakhstan next week.

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