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Celtic take big step towards Europa League group stages

Rangers are also in control of their tie after earning a deserved draw at Legia Warsaw.

Celtic's Odsonne Edouard celebrates his second-half goal.
Celtic's Odsonne Edouard celebrates his second-half goal.
Image: PA

JAMES FORREST CONTINUED an impressive run of scoring form and Odsonne Edouard produced a superb free-kick as Celtic beak AIK 2-0 to take control of their Europa League play-off tie.

Scotland winger Forrest drilled home early in the second half at Celtic Park to register for a fifth straight game in all competitions.

Edouard then ensured a deserved victory for Neil Lennon’s side, who had suffered a disappointing exit in Champions League qualifying to Cluj, and the final margin of victory would have been even greater were it not for visiting goalkeeper Oscar Linner.

Celtic thought they had the lead when Edouard turned home Ryan Christie’s through ball, only for the offside flag to curtail the celebrations. 

Michael Johnston was thwarted by Linner at the end of a nicely worked move and the visiting keeper was also sharp to turn Edouard’s edge-of-the-box drive wide.

Callum McGregor saw a rasping drive tipped over by Linner shortly after the restart, but the keeper was unable to prevent Forrest’s 48th-minute effort finding the back of the net despite getting strong hands to the shot.

There was no coming back for AIK when Edouard curled home a superb 25-yard free-kick into the right side of the goal, giving Linner no chance.

Linner kept out McGregor and Edouard late on, but Celtic still have a comfortable cushion to protect in next week’s return fixture in Sweden.

Meanwhile, Rangers put themselves in a good position to reach the group stages by claiming a 0-0 draw at Legia Warsaw.

Imago 20190822 Rangers worked hard to come away from Moscow with a draw. Source: Imago/PA Images

Goalkeeper Allan McGregor was solid for the visitors yet far from over-worked at the Polish Army Stadium as his team-mates performed with distinction.

Alfredo Morelos came closest to finding a valuable away goal during the second half as the Scottish club showed they can enter next week’s return fixture with confidence.

Sheyi Ojo and Joe Aribo passed up early chances as Rangers made a composed start amid a considerable din from the home support.

McGregor beat away a venomous strike from Cafu after the half hour, but Steven Gerrard’s side remained in control — Scott Arfield putting the ball in the net only to be penalised for a foul on Legia ‘keeper Radoslaw Majecki.

The hosts should have hit the front with an hour played when centre-back Igor Lewczuk rose unchallenged at the back post but powered his header off target.

Rangers hit back, Majecki saving with his feet to thwart Morelos — the combustible forward later picking up a needless booking for blocking a free-kick deep in the Legia half.

Marko Vesovic had McGregor at full stretch to keep out his 74th-minute strike but Rangers will return to Ibrox deservedly on level terms.

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