Champions League - Ajax sneak win over Auxerre
Ten-man Ajax held on to record their first victory of this season's Champions League campaign after edging out fellow Group G strugglers Auxerre 2-1 at home.
The Dutch side closed the gap on AC Milan to keep their qualification hopes alive while Auxerre remain cut adrift in last place at the halfway stage of the first round and need a miracle if they are to progress to the knockout stages.
Moments of magic from Demy de Zeeuw and Luis Suarez before the break gave Ajax the initiative before a moment of madness from Andre Ooijer allowed Auxerre back into the game.
Two more red cards followed as the match descended into near chaos with Oliech then unused substitute Jean-Pascal Mignot given their marching orders, allowing Ajax to see out the game and clinch all three points.
The home side were quickest to settle into their stride and capitalised on their early dominance with the first goal of the game.
Auxerre goalkeeper Olivier Sorin did well to keep out Rasmus Lindgren but could only parry the ball into the path of De Zeeuw, who let fly with an unstoppable shot from 20 yards that arrowed into the top corner.
With the deadlock broken, the path had been cleared for Ajax to assert their authority; but the hosts failed to add to their tally, allowing the game to disintegrate into a scrappy affair with neither side able to maintain possession.
It took Auxerre all of 20 minutes to summon up the necessary craftsmanship to test Maarten Stekelenburg in the Ajax goal and thought they had an equaliser before the referee's timely intervention.
Roy Contout out-jumped Stekelenburg on the edge of the six-yard box and nodded the ball over the line - but the effort was ruled out with the Frenchman's challenge deemed to be illegal.
With Miralem Sulejmani and Mounir El Hamdaoui largely absent, it was left to Suarez to lead the Ajax charge and the Uruguayan troubled the Auxerre defence on a number of occasions without applying the finishing touch.
But Suarez was to have the final say of the half with a moment of magic to rival that of team-mate De Zeeuw.
De Zeeuw played his part in a swashbuckling move reminiscent of the great Ajax teams of days gone by with an elaborate flick to release Gregory van der Wiel.
The Dutch World Cup right-back passed the baton to El Hamdaoui who in turn fed Suarez and the Ajax captain polished off a wonderful passage of play with a neat finish with the outside of his right boot.
At 2-0 and seemingly in control of proceedings Ajax defender Ooijer took it upon himself to jeopardise his side's chance of success by getting sent off.
With Oliech bearing down on goal, the former Blackburn man opted to take matters into his own hands rather than allow his goalkeeper to take charge of the situation and, as the last man, gave the referee no choice but to show the red card.
It proved to be a double dose of disaster for Ajax as Birsa found the top corner of Stekelenburg's net from the resulting free-kick and Auxerre were back in the game.
Despite their numerical advantage Auxerre persisted with their policy of allowing Oliech alone to lead the attacking charge which played into the hands of their hosts.
And they were even stripped of that asset as the Kenyan went the way of Ooijer after a second yellow card for deliberate handball.
With it went Auxerre's best hope of an equaliser as they failed to summon anything resembling a goal-scoring opportunity.
The match ended eventfully with Auxerre's unused substitute Mignot sent off for irking the referee while performing his warm-up routine on the touchline.