There were many Celts on international duty last week, but Kristoffer Ajer’s display against Spain stole the show.
Norway were beaten 2-1 on the night at the Mestalla. Goals from Rodrigo and Sergio Ramos sandwiched a Joshua King penalty for the Norwegians. It was boh sides’ first game of their respective Euro 2020 qualification campaigns.
Ajer had already recorded an impressive performance at the Mestalla earlier on this season. His dominant display against Valencia was one of the highlights of the last-32 tie.
Yet, against Spain yesterday, Ajer was on another level.
Spain threw the kitchen sink at the Norwegians. The likes of Rodrigo, Marco Asenscio, and Alvaro Morata were thrown in front of Ajer. The Celtic centre-back was partnered with the experienced Havard Nordveit. Together, they were rock solid.
Expectedly, Ajer bulleted clear many cross balls on the night with his head. He was dominant in the air against the likes of Morata, and that’s an impressive feat.
Ajer impressive in the air and on the deck
Yet, what was just as impressive was the confidence Ajer showed on the deck. When Spain tried to play their swift, passing game, Ajer was often there to break it up. The Norwegians frustrated the Spaniards for large spells. Morata and Rodrigo struggled to get in behind, with Ajer’s positioning key to that.
In a week of defensive injuries for Celtic, Ajer is the main positive. Thrown up against one of the best teams in the world, the Hoops centre-back thrived. It’s becoming more and more clear that the former Start midfielder’s future could hold whatever he wants it to.
He recently signed a new long-term Hoops contract too. If there was to be any interest in him, Celtic should be demanding top dollar for him. The club can easily point to performances like this when referencing his quality and potential to grow.
It’s easy to forget that Ajer is still only 20. He has confidence and maturity in abundance for such a young star. In addition to that, however, he’s gaining a swagger to his game that’s been growing over the last 12 months.
He’s now played 39 matches this season, and has just about powered his way into being part of Celtic’s best XI.
It hasn’t exactly been a week of international success for the Celtic boys. Nir Bitton pulled out of the Israel squad, whilst Dedryck Boyata and Mikael Lustig picked up injuries respectively. As well as that, Scotland have just been a sheer embarrassment, irrespective of what happens in San Marino this evening.
It’s good to see in the middle of all this that Ajer is continuing to shine – this time at international level.