Celtic beat AIK Stockholm 2-0 in Europa League play-off
Celtic secured a 2-0 win over AIK Stockholm in their Europa League playoff tie at Celtic Park on Thursday night. Goals from James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard earned a deserved win for Neil Lennon’s side to take to Sweden next week.
In what was a week or so to forget for Celtic and their fans alike, the Scottish champions welcomed their Swedish opponents to Celtic Park for a crunch encounter with all the talk leading up to the game over how disjointed Celtic look.
Despite all the pre-match talk and hopes from some covering the game that Celtic would trip up so they could write their favourite headlines to bash Lennon and the Scottish champion again - the hosts decided to disappoint their critics and dominate what was in effect a one-sided affair with a few forays forward from AIK without little threat.
The Swedes were stubbornly resolute in the first half of the match playing five at the back looking to soak up pressure from Celtic, doing so despite Mikey Johnston, Odsonne Edouard and Callum McGregor all coming close to giving Celtic the lead if it wasn’t for Oscar Linner in the AIK goal.
Celtic’s dominance and pressure finally paid off minutes into the second half when Forrest latched onto a ball in the head of the AIK defence firing a shot on goal, but despite Linner getting a hand on the ball it dropped into the goal to give Celtic a much deserved 1-0 lead.
It was Forrest’s fifth goal in five games this season for last year’s Player of the season and it looks like he has started where he left off last season - despite the disappointing result against Cluj last week.
With AIK now a goal behind, the Swedes pushed forward looking for an away goal to take back home with them, this allowed Celtic more space and more opportunities to drive through the previously resolute AIK back line.
With little more than 15 minutes remaining, Mikey Johnston - who was proving to be a thorn in the side of the visitors - won a free kick after another sparkling run. French striker Odsonne Edouard stepped up to take the resulting penalty and curled home a beautiful strike beyond Linner in the goals to give Celtic a 2-0 lead and more importantly some breathing space in the tie.
Celtic really should have made it 3-0 late on after Callum McGregor drove forward on a superb solo run with the help of a superb ball from Edouard, but the Scottish international slotted his shot just wide of Linner’s far post.
Linner was again called into action late on as he denied Celtic three times in quick succession denying Ntcham, Edouard and Morgan.
The tie is certainly not over for Celtic, as the Cluj debacle will testify, but Thursday night’s win is a morale boost for a club and a fan base that has gone through a rocky patch of late and really only a calamitous performance in the second leg next week will see Celtic fail to reach the group stages of the competition this season.
CELTIC: Gordon; Bolingoli, Jullien, Simunovic, Ajer; Brown, McGregor, Forrest (Ntcham 82), Christie, Johnston (Morgan 82); Edouard (Bayo 84)
Subs not used: Hazard, Hayes, Bitton, Griffiths
AIK: Linner, Granli, Karlsson, Larsson, Adu, Lindkvist, Bahoui (Saletros 70), Mets, Lundstrom (Rashidi 87), Sigthorsson (Obasi 72) Goitom
Subs not used: Janosevic, Dimitriadis, Michel, Hussein