MOHAMED ELYOUNOUSSI fired in Celtic’s last-minute winner against FC Riga in Latvia last night to set up a Europa League play-off against Sarajevo in Bosnia on Thursday.
The tie was heading for a scoreless stalemate and extra-time when the Norwegian international pounced to zip in a Jeremie Frimpong right-wing cross to set up next week’s crucial tie against the team the nine-in-a-row champions beat home and away in the Champions League qualifiers in July last year.
A relieved Hoops gaffer Neil Lennon, speaking to Sky Sports News, said: “We had to be patient, we left it a little bit late to get the winner. We should have had the game wrapped up a lot earlier, we had a couple of great chances. But we were dominant.
“I thought the subs did really well when they came on, but the starting eleven, I felt played very well. Riga set their stall out early and I just said to my players: ‘You’re going to have to keep probing, keep wearing them down, make sure the door is shut at the back’.
“It’s not an easy place to come and win, and we’ve done it very professionally, so I’m delighted. It’s not an easy game to play, a lot of pressure on us going into the game, but we’ve negotiated it very well.
“There was a calmness about us. We didn’t get frustrated, we kept going. There was aspects of our play we can do better. But I felt 2-0, 3-0 wouldn’t have flattered us. We missed good chances at big moments in the game, but, thankfully, we’ve come up with a brilliant goal towards the end.
“That experience, I think, has stood them in good stead. We’ve got another real difficult one next week. I felt the performance thoroughly merited the win.”
Odsonne Edouard was back on duty after being rested in the 3-2 victory over Livingston, but the French frontman displayed little enthusiasm for the task and was taken off eight minutes from the end to be replaced by matchwinner Elyounoussi.
The former Paris Saint-Germain prospect, the club’s record £9million buy in June 2018, has been at the centre of intense transfer speculation during the summer.
He was also hooked in last week’s 2-1 win over St Mirren in Paisley following another hardly-inspiring display in which he also squandered a penalty-kick.
On this type of lacklustre form, it must be doubtful if Edouard will lead the Hoops attack against Hibs at Parkhead on Sunday.