Edouard puts Celtic in Europa League command to ease heat on Lennon

Edouard puts Celtic in Europa League command to ease heat on Lennon
Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard celebrates after his free kick put Celtic 2-0 up against Swedish side AIK in their Europa League play-off first leg in Glasgow last night. Picture: Andrew MIlligan/PA Wire

By Andy Newport

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

Celtic came close to killing the tie off. Callum McGregor shot inches wide after being played through by Edouard and Oscar Linner made a triple save from substitute Olivier Ntcham, Edouard and Michael Johnston.

“Edouard is playing brilliantly,” said Lennon. “He’s leading the line superbly and I can’t speak highly enough of his talent. He’s an integral part and important figure in this team.

We want to get the job done properly next week. We still have an important 90 minutes ahead in Sweden.

Celtic confirmed tonight keeper Fraser Forster’s move on loan from Southampton. Wolves take a 3-2 lead back to Molineux after their first-leg tie against Serie A side Torino tonight.

Wolves took a 43rd-minute lead when Torino failed to defend a Joao Moutinho free-kick properly and Gleison Bremer put into his own net. Wolves doubled their lead after 59 minutes when the impressive Adama Traore set up Diogo Jota, the Portuguese stroking home the cross from 10 yards out.

Torino pulled a goal back two minutes later as the unmarked Lorenzo De Silvestri met Cristian Ansaldi’s deep cross.

Raul Jimenez restored Wolves’ two-goal lead after 72 minutes, bursting past some tame Torino tackling to fire home and make it 3-1. Andrea Belotti gave Torino hope for the second leg by converting an 89th-minute penalty.

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Elsewhere Steven Gerrard called it right with his prediction that Rangers’ Europa League shoot-out with Legia Warsaw will go to the wire after his side were held to a goalless first-leg draw in Poland.

The Ibrox boss anticipated his side would be tested at the Polish Army Stadium by Aleksandar Vukovic’s men. But Gerrard will be delighted by the composure his side showed in the Legia cauldron as they seek to reach the group stages.

“I thought we stuck together in a very hostile atmosphere,” said Gerrard. “The tie’s in the balance.”

Irish League side Linfield beat Qarabag 3-2 at Windsor Park tonight.

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