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EUROPA AFTERMATH: LENNON HAILS HIS HOOPS HEROES

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DELIGHTED Celtic boss Neil Lennon hailed goalscorers James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard after the 2-0 win over AIK Stockholm in the first leg of their Europa League play-off at Parkhead last night.

And the Irishman did not forget to praise his defence after the team made sure of a crucial clean sheet before Thursday’s return in Sweden.

Forrest claimed yet another important strike by getting the barrier-breaking effort shortly after the interval and Edouard doubled the advantage with a mesmerising 25-yard free-kick that left the keeper helpless as it flew into his top left-hand corner of the net.

A combination of good goalkeeping from Oscar Limmer, his side’s hero on the evening, and finishing that lacked the killer touch kept the advantage to two goals.

Callum McGregor was particularly unfortunate near the end when he went on a lung-bursting run on the left after a deft through pass from Edouard, but the midfielder’s angled drive just crept wide of the far post with the keeper stranded.

Lennon, speaking to the Celtic website, said: “It was an outstanding performance and a great team performance. We played well in the first-half, but I thought we were magnificent in the second. Some of the football we played was great and we scored some fantastic goals.

IT TAKES TWO…Christopher Jullien and Kristoffer Ajer after last night’s game.

“Odsonne is playing brilliantly. He’s leading the line superbly and I can’t speak highly enough of his talent. He’s an integral part and important figure in this team.

“I also think James is underplayed in terms of public image, but I think that suits him. That’s five goals in five games for him now and we never take that for granted.

“He’s an outstanding player and he’s got so much more to come. I’ve known him for a long time. He did wonders for me the first time round and he’s doing it again.”

Lennon was also pleased with the contributions of £10million defensive duo Christopher Jullien and Boli Bolingoli and once again singled out Kristoffer Ajer who was immense at right-back.

He added: “We defended resolutely and strongly. AIK were tough, but I thought we played very well and had good energy around the pitch and a spark that we might have lacked last weekend.

“Next week is a European tie away from home against the Swedish champions. We’ve given ourselves a foothold which is important, but we need to see it through.

“Boli was good, as was Christopher and Kris Ajer is having an outstanding period at the moment. We didn’t give AIK a foothold in the game early on, we pressed as a unit and the tempo pleased me.

“We want to get the job done properly next week, but we still have an important 90 minutes ahead of us this weekend against Hearts.”

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Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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