Thulani Serero shines for Ajax

Serero's goal broke Barcelona's 20 match unbeaten run.

Ajax Amsterdam's Thulani Serero celebrates scoring a goal with teammates during the UEFA Champions League group H football match against FC Barcelona at the Amsterdam Arena on 26 November 2013. Picture: AFP.

AMSTERDAM - Ajax Amsterdam stayed in contention for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League after becoming the first side to beat Barcelona this season with a 2-1 triumph on Tuesday.

Thulani Serero and Danny Hoesen scored to give Ajax a surprise halftime lead, but straight after the break, defender Joel Veltman was red-carded for a tackle on Neymar and Xavi pulled a goal back from the penalty spot.

Injury-plagued Barcelona, who had already qualified for the knockout stages from Group H, applied pressure in search of an equaliser, but Ajax held out to wild applause in the Amsterdam Arena.

"I said Ajax would be the first team to beat Barcelona with the attacking football we always want to play," said Ajax manager Frank de Boer.

Ajax stay third in the group, one point behind AC Milan, who they must now beat on 11 December to qualify.

Barcelona, without the injured Lionel Messi, are two points clear and not yet sure of a top place.

Barca coach Gerardo Martino said, "In the first half we didn't have a good attitude. At an individual level we were not as good as Ajax."

Serero ghosted in late for the first goal in the 19th minute, applying the decisive touch to a strong cross from fullback Ricardo van Rhijn, who just five minutes earlier had made a goal-saving tackle on Neymar.

The South Africa international's first Champions League goal precipitated a period of sustained pressure from the young Dutch side, culminating in a second goal three minutes from halftime.

"We knew we had to be compact and keep playing after the penalty. It was a silly mistake," said Serero.

A poor clearance by Javier Mascherano allowed Ajax to set up a chance for Viktor Fischer, whose shot was parried by goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto, only for Hoesen to pick up the rebound, go round Carles Puyol and score with the help of a deflection off Gerard Pique.

An Ajax fan was seriously injured after falling 10 metres from the stands as he celebrated the goal. He was taken to hospital.

It was Barcelona's first defeat under new coach Martino and ended hopes of a record-equalling, longest unbeaten start to a season.

The Spanish club had gone 20 games without defeat, one shy of the record set by Pep Guardiola's 2011-12 side. They last lost at home to Bayern Munich in last season's Champions League semifinal.