Celtic have comfortably progressed into the UEFA Europa League group stages after a 4-1 win over Swedish champions AIK on Thursday night.
Added to a 2-0 first leg victory, winning the tie was never really in doubt for Neil Lennon’s men, who produced another professional performance in Stockholm.
An early counter-attacking goal from James Forrest sent us on our way to victory. AIK’s penalty equaliser was also immediately cancelled out after Mikey Johnston jinking run resulted in an own goal.
From then on it was plain sailing, especially in the second half when the home team looked devoid of ideas. Two late goals from Christopher Jullien and Lewis Morgan added a bit of style to the scoreline.
Injury concerns aside, it was a pleasing night for the Hoops and supporters.
A solid team performance in general, these are our player ratings this evening…
Craig Gordon – 7
The Celtic goalkeeper didn’t have much to do in the match. However when called upon did produce a decent save in the second half to ensure there would be no glimmer of hope for the Swedes. His rating could well have been higher if he’d had a busier night, but he didn’t really have the chance to test himself.
Kristoffer Ajer – 6
Rather worryingly, the defender limped off early in the match and had to be replaced by Anthony Ralston. His current injury status is unknown but hopefully we’ll get more news from Neil Lennon later on. Had no chance to make a real impact on the match, hence an average score.
Christopher Jullien – 7
Jullien was again aerially dominant but a little shaky when standing up and defending the ball on the deck. The Frenchman is a bit of a conundrum right now for me. There’s no doubt he is physically imposing but there are still concerns about his ability when players run at him. Pace and positioning remain slight worries. Ibrox will be a massive test for him and hopefully he can come through with flying colours. Gets a bonus point for his late goal.
Nir Bitton – 6
Bitton is a bit like the opposite of Jullien, or at least was in this match. Committed in the block and tackle, he looked terrified whenever a high ball came his way and he had to challenge for it. It’s nights like this away in Europe when it looks obvious he is a midfielder playing as a defender. Not convincing, but at least he is comfortable playing the ball from the back. We need a specialist partner for Jullien.
Boli Bolingoli – 7
The left-back had a solid night on the flank, without being particularly impressive. He performed his tasks decently and in the second half had more space to move forward in attack. He conceded the penalty that AIK scored, although it looked a little soft. He does have the tendency to be caught a little flat footed when players overlap. Still a work in progress.
Scott Brown – 6
The captain struggled with the pace and intensity of the game in the first half when it was still something of a contest. Our midfield was certainly overrun throughout that spell and, tasked with protecting his defence, Brown was pretty absent. In the second half he was more comfortable and pleasantly aggravated the opposition, but the pace of the game had slowed significantly. His form right now is a serious concern, especially heading into a high intensity game at Ibrox.
Callum McGregor – 6
Like Brown, McGregor struggled to impose himself on the match in the first half, but did at least distribute the ball moving forward much better than the veteran. Far away from his worst or his best game, he’ll need to show more presence when we visit Steven Gerrard’s outfit in a few days time.
Ryan Christie – 7
Again tireless with his efforts at both ends of the pitch, Christie is without a doubt our finest player in the central area right now. Even when not scoring or assisting, he offers so much. Aside from Edouard and Forrest, he must be the first name on the teamsheet these days. I certainly can’t think of anyone I would rather have in the team.
James Forrest – 9
The winger’s goal in the first half was a thing of beauty. Latching on to the perfect Edouard pass, he took a classy first touch and rifled the ball home to put the tie beyond doubt. When describing the homegrown talent, there’s a struggle to come up with new superlatives. Also assisted Lewis Morgan late on. He’ll likely be our most important player against Rangers again, and in the Europa League group stages.
Mikey Johnston – 8
The young prospect has cemented his left wing position in Lennon’s squad and performances like tonight’s are why. His jinking run directly after AIK’s penalty was outstanding and ultimately resulted in a goal at the perfect time. There are still a few question marks about his decision making when he has the ball in dangerous positions, but you can’t deny his ambition on the pitch. Vital right now.
Odsonne Edouard – 8
One of the big concerns coming out of tonight’s match is the injury status of the Frenchman. He appeared to be feeling his hamstring late in the match after being kept on the pitch for far too long by Lennon. Hopefully he is fit enough to play on Sunday. He was excellent prior to his exit, providing a constant outlet for our midfield talent and showing the vision to assist Forrest’s opener. Fingers crossed he is OK.
Anthony Ralston (6) was never really troubled too much in replacement for Ajer. Vakoun Bayo (6) and Lewis Morgan (7) didn’t have much time to impact the game but the latter will be delighted with his injury time goal.