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Sarajevo 0 Celtic 1: Edouard seals £10m ticket to Europa League group stages

CELTIC booked their place in the Europa League group stages with a hard-fought win over Sarajevo.

Odsonne Edouard’s second-half goal ensured the Hoops would be in the hat for Friday’s draw in Switzerland.

Celtic stars congratulate goal hero Odsonne Edouard

The Parkhead giants have had some memorable European nights, but this was far from a classic. 

It was though, a case of job done, and another £10million in the bank. 

Neil Lennon didn’t raise many eyebrows with his team selection, although his side did suffer an early setback when Nir Bitton was forced off with an ankle knock.

The versatile Israeli started alongside Kristoffer Ajer and Shane Duffy as part of a back three.

CELTIC TRANSFER NEWS LIVE Keep up to date with all the latest from Parkhead

But he couldn’t shake off an early clash with Aleksandar Pejović and was replaced by fellow countryman Hatem Elhamed after just eight minutes.

It’s another injury that will concern Lenny ahead of the October 17 Glasgow derby – with James Forrest and Mikey Johnston out and Albian Ajeti nursing a hamstring strain.

Sarajevo’s game plan was clear from the off. Sit deep, soak up the pressure and hit on the counter.

Celts dominated possession during the early proceedings, but it was Bosnian forward Benjamin Tatar who nearly opened the scoring after 13 minutes.

The hosts broke forward on the counter-attack and Tatar managed to trigger a left-footed shot inside the box, forcing Vasilis Barkas into a save. 

AP:Associated Press
Jeremie Frimpong turned in another excellent showing[/caption]

It was an early warning sign for the Scottish champions. 

Nir Bitton went down with an ankle knock after a 50/50[/caption]
The Israeli couldn’t shake off the knock and was subbed for Hatem Elhamed[/caption]

Celtic enjoyed the bulk of possession, with Jeremie Frimpong the main attacking threat down the right hand side.

Scott Brown then created an opening for himself just before the half hour mark but his thunderous strike cannoned off Mo Elyounoussi. 

With Sarajevo defending deep, Lennon’s side found it difficult to break down the stubborn backline. 

Elyounoussi almost put the Hoops in front five minutes before half-time.

Ryan Christie picked out Odsonne Edouard and the Frenchman flicked the ball to Elyounoussi.

AP:Associated Press
Edouard’s sixth goal of the season secured Celtic’s place in the group stages[/caption]

The on-loan Southampton winger could have taken a touch but his first-time volley from 12 yards out was easily gathered by the keeper.

After a goalless first-half, Celtic started the second 45 on the front foot, with teenager Frimpong’s lightning-quick pace causing problems down the right-hand side.

It was one-way traffic but the longer the game went on, the more you feared Celts would never break the deadlock as Sarajevo continued to frustrate.

EURO TRIP When is the Europa League group stage draw and who could Celtic face?

Ryan Christie fired a rare effort over the bar from 20 yards out after the hour mark.

Elhamed then went close with a volley at the back post.

But moments later the Hoops’ perseverance finally paid off through Edouard.

Elyounoussi teed up Christie with a backhell and the Scotland playmaker’s shot was parried by the keeper.

Edouard made no mistake as he pounced on the rebound to stab the ball home and gives Celtic a vital lead.

It was no more than Celtic deserved, with Sarajevo showing little intent on making a game of it.

Goal hero French Eddy was then given a breather, with Patryk Klimala thrown on to add fresh legs up front.

With just minutes remaining, Sarajevo wasted a couple of set-piece opportunities as they chased an equaliser.

But Celtic held on to a deserved win and can now look forward to a tenth successive European group stage campaign.

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