KRISTOFFER AJER was named Celtic’s Man of the Match after their 1-0 win at Parkhead yesterday – and then the Hoops defender PRAISED the beaten Aberdeen players.
Derek McInnes’ men were rocked with Odsonne Edouard’s eighth-minute drive from the edge of the penalty area took a deflection off Tommie Hoban and swept beyond the wrong-footed Joe Lewis.
However, after surviving a few scares, most notably a horrendous close-range miss from Patryk Klimala when he failed to hit the target from six yards, they made it more of a contest in the second period.
Ajer, Stephen Welsh and Co were put under an aerial bombardment from their opponents with a few 6ft-plus performers in their ranks, but they held out for the victory.
SMILES BETTER…Odsonne Edouard looks over at goal provider Ryan Christie as Lewis Ferguson grimaces.
The 22-year-old Norwegian international, speaking to Celtic TV, admitted: “It was a really tough game. Aberdeen made it difficult and it was good to get another three points.
“I think we have to give honour to Aberdeen, they pressed the full game, they ran a lot and they’re a fit bunch of lads.
“We knew it was going to be tough, but I think we did what we needed to do. We wanted to play football and I think we did that, in the first-half especially. We had to play out from the back and I think we did that well.
“We’re hurting with the performances this season. We haven’t been good enough, but we need to keep that togetherness going, like we showed on this occasion and keep picking up three points.”
Interin manager John Kennedy, celebrating a victory in his first game after taking over from Neil Lennon, admitted the club will face a struggle to hold onto the versatile performer.
Ajer has already been linked with a reunion with ex-Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers at Leicester City while AC Milan, who thumped the Glasgow side home and away in the Europa League Group H this season, have been tracking the player since summer.
Borussia Dortmund are also in the hunt and could follow fthe example of Bayer Leverkusen in raiding the Parkhead club after Jeremie Frimpong’s £11.5million move to the Bundesliga outfit last month. Atletico Madrid have also been credited with an interest.
Ajer, who was signed by his countryman Ronny Deila for a bargain £650,000 from FK Start in 2015, has one year left on his Celtic contract and, like striker Odsonne Edouard, is bound to attract interest at the end of a thoroughly disappointing campaign.
ONE THAT GOT AWAY….Callum McGregor reflects on a second-half miss.
Stand-in boss Kennedy, who will be in charge for the next seven league games, speaking to the Sunday Mail,said: “Kris isn’t overly-thinking about his future. For him, it’s just about giving his best wherever he is.
“But I’ve no doubt that there will be interest in him. He’s still very young and he’s an international player.
“With his profile of speed, size, technique and ability – there’s going to be interest in him.
“When that comes, it’ll be the club and Kris himself making that decision. It’s important for the club going forward to keep players like him.
“But it’s a two-way thing of the player having that commitment contractually, as well. We’ve got boys here such as Scott Brown and Callum McGregor who know the club inside out, enjoy being here and have an affiliation with Celtic.
“They’re happy here and content, they want to maximise the time they have.
“But other players as we’ve seen in the past, come in, do well for the club – but if it makes sense for the club from a business perspective and the player sees his future elsewhere, naturally things change.
“But that’s not just at Celtic, that’s at every club.”
Kennedy and Celtic now face a trip to Tannadice for a High Noon kick-off against Dundee United a week today.