Lennon salutes Celtic’s response after ‘difficult few days’
Goals from James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard earned the hosts victory over AIK.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon hailed his side for bouncing back from a difficult week with an “outstanding performance” against AIK.
Lennon’s team ran out to a banner demanding the manager and Celtic hierarchy do not “sleep at the wheel” from fans still hurting from their Champions League exit.
A 4-3 defeat by Cluj last week sparked major criticism and the supporters were not soothed by a narrow extra-time win over Dunfermline in the Betfred Cup.
But Celtic took a major step towards the Europa League group stage after James Forrest’s early second-half goal and Odsonne Edouard’s free-kick earned a 2-0 play-off first-leg win over the Swedes.
Lennon said: “It was an outstanding performance, a great team performance. We played particularly well first half, but second half we had real control and could have scored more.
“Some of the football we played was great and we scored some fabulous goals.
“The overall performance – off the back of what has been a difficult few days – was excellent. It can’t have been easy for the players and they have gone out there and played brilliantly.”
Lennon was delighted with the team’s first clean sheet in five games, especially after starting summer signings Boli Bolingoli and Christopher Jullien.
“It’s really important because we haven’t had one for three or four games,” he said.
“We defended resolutely when we needed to. The centre-halves were strong, Boli played particularly well and Kris Ajer is having an outstanding time of it as well. We were big and physical when we needed to be and let the rest of them get on with it.”
When asked if he was particularly pleased for Bolingoli, who set up the opener, Lennon interjected: “Given the abuse you boys have been giving him? Yeah, very pleased and hopefully that will settle him down. I thought Jullien had a strong game as well so maybe they’re not that bad after all.”
Lennon admitted Forrest was “doing wonders” for him again after the winger scored in his fifth consecutive game and he was gushing in his praise for Edouard.
“He’s playing brilliantly, he is in brilliant goal-scoring form and leading the line superbly,” he said. “I can’t speak highly enough of his talent and mentality and he is becoming such an integral part of the team. And his goal was outstanding.
“I have to pay tribute to the supporters, I thought they were fantastic and it was a great atmosphere for the players to play in front of.”
AIK manager Rikard Norling warned his team were not down and out.
“We played a good team, they deserved to win,” he said.
“It is a big task but we wont hold anything back. We will give everything we have and we know we have great fans behind us and we’ll see. The tie is still alive.
“The result could have been better but it’s going to be a different game at our place.”