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Lennon is relieved as Hoops steady ship and cruise past AIK

Celtic 2 AIK 0

Get in: Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard celebrates scoring his side’s second goal at Parkhead last night
Get in: Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard celebrates scoring his side’s second goal at Parkhead last night
Celtic manager Neil Lennon

By Gavin McCafferty

Odsonne Edouard's free-kick gave Celtic a two-goal cushion to take to Sweden in their Europa League play-off against AIK.

The Frenchman curled home from 25 yards in the 73rd minute at Celtic Park to earn the Scottish champions a 2-0 first-leg triumph.

James Forrest had scored in his fifth consecutive game two minutes after the break as Celtic took a major step towards sealing a place in the group stage.

The result was a much welcome boost for manager Neil Lennon and a Celtic support still hurting from their Champions League defeat by Cluj last week.

After accusing the board of "downsizing" and "gambling 10 in a row" on Saturday, fans in the standing section had another warning for the Parkhead power-brokers.

A banner demanded "Don't Sleep at Wheel" above an image of chief executive Peter Lawwell driving a car with majority shareholder Dermot Desmond in the passenger seat and Lennon in the back.

Celtic soon delivered a signing to the agitated fans with the return of goalkeeper Fraser Forster on loan from Southampton announced during the first half after Lennon revealed Scott Bain would be out for another four to six weeks with his dislocated thumb.

Craig Gordon kept his place in goal and enjoyed a comfortable evening with the Swedes rarely threatening. Hatem Abd Elhamed failed to overcome an abdominal injury meaning Kristoffer Ajer switched to right-back with Christopher Jullien starting alongside the fit-again Jozo Simunovic in central defence.

Events turned fractious on and off the pitch towards the end of the first half with some of the noisy AIK supporters pushed back by stewards and police as they briefly made inroads towards the home fans. Celtic started the second half with intent and Callum McGregor had a strike tipped over before Forrest capitalised on the break of the ball following Boli Bolingoli's run and pass. AIK goalkeeper Oscar Linner got both hands to the winger's strike but the ball looped over his head and landed behind the goal line. Linner soon pushed Ryan Christie's shot wide before AIK settled down and Gordon saved Nabil Bahoui's looping header on his line.

But the crucial second came from one of several free-kicks Michael Johnston won in quick succession after running at the Swedes. Edouard stepped up and curled into the top corner.

McGregor shot inches wide after being played through by Edouard and Linner made a triple save from Olivier Ntcham, Edouard and Johnston.

CELTIC: Gordon, Ajer, Jullien, Simunovic, Bolingoli, Forrest (Ntcham 82), Brown, McGregor, Christie, Edouard (Bayo 85), Johnston (Morgan 82). Subs not used: Bitton, Griffiths, Hayes, Hazard.

AIK: Linner, Granli, Karlsson, Mets, Lundstrom (Rashidi 87), Larsson, Kofi Adu, Bahoui (Saletros 70), Lindkvist, Goitom, Sigthorsson (Obasi 72). Subs not used: Dimitriadis, Melki, Hussein, Janosevic.

Man of match: Forrest Match rating: 7 Ref: Tamas Bognar (Hun)

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