BRENDAN RODGERS saluted his young Bhoys after Celtic drew 0-0 against Rosenborg in Trondheim last night to set up a Champions League third round qualifier against AEK Athena in Glasgow on Wednesday.
Kristoffer Ajer, 20, and 22-year-old Jack Hendry played in the pivotal role as the Hoops ground out a stalemate to advance to the next stage on a 3-1 aggregate scoreline.
With Jozo Simunovic banned and Dedryck Boyata unavailable, the youngsters teamed up for only the second time – and held firm against an aggressive Norwegian outfit.
Rodgers said: “We have achieved our objective. This was a different type of game to last week.
“I thought Rosenborg played very well in the first-half knowing they needed to come out and take the initiative. We couldn’t quite build the game as well as we’d have liked.
“But I was very pleased with how we defended – it was great resilience and mentality out there. We changed things slightly in the second-half to gain more control and I felt we took the sting out of the game.
“In the last 20 minutes we had to deal with a lot of direct balls into the box and I was very pleased with our two young centre halves. They both stood up to everything asked of them.
“When you are under pressure there are questions asked of you. But I felt Jack Hendry, in the second-half, was excellent. He won some great headers and was really dominant.
“Kris Ajer, too, was very impressive. We also had Cristian Gamboa in the side and I thought he also did very well.”
Boyata will be available for next week’s clash against the Greek champions and Simunovic will be free of suspension.
Admitting Ajer and Hendry offered food for thought, Rodgers added: “It is just going to be great having those players available. It is a real challenge at this stage of the season, so getting those guys back will be very important for us.
“They are both fantastic players and with Dedryck coming off the back of a good World Cup, he is full of confidence.
“It will be great to have him back. But, on this occasion, it is about the guys who have done the job for us over two legs against a good side.”