Celtic have taken a positive step towards the UEFA Europa League group stages with a 2-0 win against AIK at Celtic Park on Thursday night.
Keeping the clean sheet was crucial to our hopes of progressing past the difficult tie against the Swedish champions.
Having also worked hard to ensure there’s an aggregate cushion, we are now well placed to finish the job in Stockholm, though that will require another big performance from Neil Lennon’s side.
It was a solid team display from the Hoops and much improved compared to recent matches against Cluj and Dunfermline.
With a few individuals providing the magic, our player ratings for the night are as follows:
Craig Gordon – 6
It was a big night for the Celtic goalkeeper, getting a rare opportunity to impress due to Scott Bain’s injury. With Fraser Forster announced as a new signing during the first-half, he needed a big performance. However, he never really got the opportunity, with AIK rarely threatening. Solid distribution served the Hoops well and our first clean sheet since St Johnstone is nothing to sniff at.
Kristoffer Ajer – 7
Ajer was again tasked by the manager to perform at right-back due to an injury suffered by Hatem Abd Elhamed. He continues to look like an accomplished option in the position, consistently driving forward throughout the 90 minutes. As back-ups go, he’s really not a bad choice. We still need to strengthen, but we’re lucky the Norwegian international is available.
Christopher Jullien – 7
After a shaky performance against Dunfermline at the weekend, the Frenchman needed to improve tonight. He looked solid enough at the back, dominant in the air and didn’t really give the visitors a sniff. It was the kind of performance that will give fans a bit more hope we don’t have a signing dud on our hands, without being particularly blowaway.
Jozo Simunovic – 7
The Croatian looked like a solid partner for Jullien. Defensively he didn’t really put a foot wrong, albeit with little pressure. Anything he had to deal with, he did. No real complaints, but nothing impressive here to push his score higher.
Boli Bolingoli – 7
With the left-back position so controversial last week against CFR Cluj, there was a bit of pressure on Bolingoli’s shoulders tonight. He was one of our big presences in the first half, constantly probing on the left flank. After the break, it was his surging run from the opposition half that led to James Forrest’s opener. If he can produce this kind display consistently, more assists will follow. However, defensive question marks remain with some poor mistakes once we took the lead that put us under pressure.
Scott Brown – 6
Scott Brown had a lot of making up to do after the horror show against the Romanian champions last week. He looked far more assured in the middle of the park and performed his ball-winning role adequately. Although not really showing the kind of attacking ambition from midfield that would push his score higher, it was a comfortable night for the captain.
Callum McGregor – 7
McGregor was selected in a more familiar role for this match compared to our last European outing. Like Scott Brown he rarely put a foot wrong and towards the end of the match also threatened with impressive runs forward. He was unlucky not to score our third goal of the night after picking up an Edouard pass.
James Forrest – 8
As ever, the winger was crucial to the result and performance. His goalscoring instincts are up there with the best the rest of the Celtic squad have to offer. His opening goal sent us on our way. He must be in the conversation of being a modern Hoops legend with his contributions over the last few years. Tonight’s display was no less important.
Ryan Christie – 8
The attacking midfielder was our driving force in the first half before his teammates took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second 45 minutes. He tirelessly chased every ball and put in as much graft towards securing the result as anyone else on the pitch. It wasn’t his most spectacular Celtic performance but he sets a high bar and showed his quality throughout.
Mikey Johnston – 8
The young winger produced a gutsy display to provide a constant threat down our left flank throughout. Although often physically outmatched, he showed the kind of determination that marks him out as a player with the right attitude and serious potential. Along with Christie he was our brightest player in the first half. He really has the ability to terrorise defences.
Odsonne Edouard – 9
Once again it was the Frenchman who provided the most special moment of the night, netting a superb curling free-kick past the AIK goalkeeper. It was the classiest of goals that really pushes us towards the group stages. With five goals for the season now, he’s well on his way to bettering his 23-goal tally of last term. Everyone wants to be Edouard. He also just so happened to be our most effective player throughout his time on the pitch, pulling the strings and looking every bit the capable replacement for old pal Moussa Dembele.
None of the substitutes, Olivier Ntcham (6), Vakoun Bayo (6) and Lewis Morgan (6), really got the time to make an impact on the match. Celtic well were on top by the time they were added post-80 minutes, though they will be buoyed to have been given the nod by manager Neil Lennon.