LONDON: Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers raised eyebrows by breaking the club’s transfer record to sign Odsonne Edouard last month but the Frenchman is proving his worth after scoring twice in a 3-1 win over Rosenborg in Wednesday’s Champions League second-round qualifier.
Celtic spent nine million pounds ($11.88 million) on the striker, who spent last season on loan at the Scottish champions from Paris St Germain, and his performance in the first leg at Celtic Park left Rodgers in no doubt whether the 20-year-old had justified his hefty price tag.
“Yeah and a lot more,” he said. “He is a really class player.”
Norwegian champions Rosenborg took the lead early in the first half before Edouard and countryman Olivier Ntcham responded for the hosts. Edouard gave Celtic breathing space for the return leg next week when he made it 3-1 in the 75th minute.
“The first goal looked so simple but you see his movement to create the space and he just passed it in,” said Rodgers. “The second goal, he times his run perfectly and a mark of the top striker, to have that confidence on the big occasion, to show that calmness under pressure, was brilliant.”
Celtic would face Greek side AEK Athens in the next round of qualifying if they get past the Norwegians.
Rosenborg, who controversially sacked manager Kare Ingebrigsten last week and replaced him with academy director and interim boss Rini Coolen, stunned the hosts as early as the 15th minute through defender Birger Meling who finished with aplomb with Nicklas Bendtner registering the assist after a mistake by Jack Hendry.
However, Brendan Rodgers’ side showed their mettle and Edouard levelled the scores only a minute before the half-time break with a classy goal.
A change in tactics from Celtic at the interval prompted a much improved showing in the second-half, and they edged ahead with their first attack when Ntcham’s beautiful curled effort from the edge of the box left Andre Hansen helpless.
Rodgers’ side spurned several more chances, but finally registered their third of the evening when Edouard capped a terrific performance as he lobbed Hansen for his double.
Celtic weren’t the only former European champions in action on Wednesday as Ajax also put one foot in the third round of qualifiers after beating visiting Sturm Graz 2-0 in Amsterdam with the winner of the tie set to meet Standard Liege.
Ajax’s goals were scored by Hakim Ziyech, who beat goalkeeper Jorg Siebenhandl with a shot from outside the box, and Lasse Schone who knocked in the rebound after his initial effort from the penalty spot was stopped.
Ajax, who have not won the Dutch title since 2014, have spent heavily on new players this season, including Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic. Tadic was brought on with 25 minutes to go while Blind, whose signing was only approved just over a week ago, took to the pitch 10 minutes ahead of full time.
Elsewhere, BATE Borisov and Ludogorets Razgard were held at home by Finland’s HJK Helsinki and Hungarian outfit Videoton respectively.
BATE kept pressure on the guests throughout the game at Borisov Arena, but were held by resolute HJK while Ludogorets were equally dominant but failed to open Videoton’s defence.
In the other match of the day, Kukesi of Albania and Azerbaijan’s Qarabag also played out a goalless first leg in Shkoder ahead of the return in Baku.
Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2018