Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic made his return to the Hoops side perhaps earlier than expected in the 2-1 Scottish Cup win over Partick Thistle.

The centre-back replaced the injured Nir Bitton after only seven minutes of the game. Despite some rusty moments, especially in the first-half, Neil Lennon is delighted to have the player fit and available once more.

“I’m a big admirer of his, so it’s great to have him back” Lennon said, speaking after the match.

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“He was very, very good”

Jozo Simunovic celebrates a Celtic goal

Jozo Simunovic celebrates a Celtic goal (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“We know he’s got issues, but when he’s played, particularly when he’s played for me, he’s been outstanding, and I thought he was very, very good tonight” the Hoops boss concluded.

Simunovic hadn’t played for the Hoops since August, after undergoing a knee operation. Therefore, it was inevitable that he would look rusty at times.

However, Lennon does sound delighted to have him back in the squad.

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Was a regular under Hoops boss towards end of season

Jozo Simunovic powers home a header

Jozo Simunovic powers home a header (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

It should be remembered that Simunovic was a regular for Lennon towards the end of last season. He also played regularly for the Hoops at the start of this season. That was before his knee injury sidelined him for months.

 

What is perhaps most interesting is the fact that Lennon acknowledges the ‘issues’ that the player has had to deal with.

That will be the injuries that he has had to deal with in his time at the club. Simunovic also rarely plays when the Hoops play on artificial pitches. That is a problem as three teams in the Premiership have those.

It has to be said though, that when he is fit and playing well Simunovic has been an excellent defender for the Hoops.

He is once more fit, and hopefully the good form will follow. Simunovic is more than capable of challenging Kristoffer Ajer and Christopher Jullien for a starting place in the Hoops defence.

Hopefully he can stay fit and feature regularly as the Hoops aim to win nine in a row.

 

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