On Thursday evening Celtic took a huge step towards qualification for the Europa League group stages as they confidently beat AIK Stockholm 2-0.
The Swedes, who were missing a number of key players, came to Glasgow with a defensive minded plan. The main aim was to frustrate the hosts and the plan worked to perfection for Rikard Norling’s men in the first-half before falling away in the second after conceding an early goal.
I was pretty confident at half-time that Celtic would finally find a way to edge by the back five of AIK and I was proved right as goals from James Forrest and a sensational free-kick by Odsonne Edouard was enough to put the Celts in the driving seat.
It was a fantastic atmosphere inside Celtic Park, with both sets of fans singing their hearts out.
As I stated before, AIK came here for a draw and to frustrate Celtic and to the visitors credit, they defended well in the early parts of the game. The hosts controlled the majority of the possession but were struggling to get by the camped box of AIK players.
On the 15th minute the home side had the ball in the net, but the goal was disallowed as Edouard was adjudged to be offside after some nice link-up play between the Frenchman and Ryan Christie. Five minutes later a cut-back by Bolingoli found Johnson, but his shot was deflected out for a corner.
Midway through the first-half, two powerful efforts from Edouard forced Linner into a couple of fantastic saves, before there was strong claims for a penalty as Kristoffer Ajer was hauled to the ground, but referee Tamas Bognar wasn’t having any of it.
The visitors were slowly creeping their way back into the game as they managed to carve out their first chance of the evening on the 34th minute. A cross from the left found Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, who’s dangerous goal-bound effort was well blocked by Scott Brown.
After a whole load of timewasting from the visitors and soft fouls going against Celtic, there was frustration growing rapidly around Celtic Park, which led to some unsavoury scenes just before half-time as AIK fans tried to storm their way into the home end.
Half Time- Celtic 0-0 AIK Stockholm
Celtic unveiled the return of Fraser Forster at half-time as the 6’7 giant walked out the tunnel as all the lights went out. The goalkeeper has signed on-loan from Southampton for the season.
Celtic came out flying in the second-half and it looked only a matter of time until they broke the deadlock.
They deservedly did so on the 48th minute when James Forrest got the break of the ball before bursting forward into the box and firing into the net despite Oscar Linner getting a strong hand on it.
The confidence was now growing inside Parkhead from the stands to the eleven men standing on the pitch and the hosts continued to push forward in pursuit of the what would be a vital second goal. On the 51st minute, Christie was seriously unlucky not to double The Hoops lead as he beat a few AIK defenders on the edge of the box, before his curling effort was tipped around the post.
The visitors defending rather heroically as the home side were continually upping the tempo. You couldn’t fault the Swedish sides work rate and effort.
The second goal of the evening came on the 73rd minute through a fantastic free-kick from Edouard, who deserved a goal. Some nice foot-work from Michael Johnson saw him brought down 25-yards from goal. Both Edouard and Christie stood over the ball, but it was the Frenchman who stepped up and curled it beautifully over the wall and into the top-corner, with Linner getting nowhere near it.
The free-kick from French Eddy lifted the roof inside Paradise as ” I WANNA BE EDOUARD” was sang around the ground.
The game was nearly put to bed ten minutes from time as Callum McGregor was slipped in, but he pulled his effort just wide of the target.
Linner made a fantastic triple save on the 84th minute to stop Celtic scoring a third. A long-ranged effort from Oliver Ntcham was well saved by the AIK keeper before he also denied Forrest and Lewis Morgan.
My prediction/bet of Celtic to win 3-0 and Edouard to score anytime wasn’t far away in the end.
Full Time- Celtic 2-0 AIK Stockholm
After seeing Celtic’s results against Cluj and struggling against Dunfermline in the Betfred Cup, I was eager to see what’s going on with Neil Lennon’s men.
They still look good up-front but I’m just not sure about the defence. AIK Stockholm created near to nothing the whole night, but on a few occasions Celtic nearly gifted a costly away goal through self-inflicted mistakes.
Bolingoli is a weak link and why Celtic paid nearly 3 million for him I’ve no idea. They need to replace Kieran Tierney ASAP.
Up the other end of the park, Edouard is a quality striker who will score goals if he gets the service.
2-0 isn’t a bad result for Neil Lennon’s men, but it’s still one of those results that is a bit iffy . For example if Celtic go to Stockholm next week and concede early, then you never know what can happen. They could just collapse.
Gordon, Ajer, Jullien, Simunovic, Bolingoli, Forrest(82), Brown, McGregor, Johnson(82), Christie, Edouard(84)
Subs- Hazard, Ntcham(82), Hayes, Bitton, Morgan(82), Bayo(84), Griffiths
AIK Stockholm XI
Linner, Granli, Karlsson, Mets, Lindkvist, Bahoui(70), Adu, Larsson, Lundstrom(86), Goitom, Sigthorsson(72)
Suns– Janosevic, Dimitriadis, Hussein, Michel, Obasi(72), Rashidi(86), Saletros(70)
Referee- Tomas Bognor
Assistants- Balazs Buzas & Peter Bodor
Fourth Official- Peter Kobor
Goals- Forrest(48), Edouard(73)
Yellow cards- Larsson(37), Bolingoli(44), Lundstrom(79)
Red Cards- 0
( 👆👆– The fantastic set of travelling AIK fans )