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Édouard ensures winning start to life after Neil Lennon for Celtic

Ewan Murray at Celtic Park
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Life without Neil Lennon began with a victory and Celtic are one match closer to the end of a miserable season. Those were the positives to be gleaned by John Kennedy as he presided over his first game as the club’s interim manager. Aberdeen never seemed to really believe they could inflict further damage on Celtic, a scenario which has to be regarded as curious given current circumstances.

The final game of Lennon’s second Celtic tenure proved the lame 1-0 defeat to Ross County last Sunday. As the full-time whistle blew and Aberdeen had been seen off, Kennedy’s reaction was subdued. The bigger picture will not be lost on him. Celtic desperately need a reboot.

There is a rising and logical sense that Derek McInnes will not be the Aberdeen manager by the time next season gets under way. Disquiet from supporters, even in absentia, has swirled around McInnes for a considerable time.

It should not be the case that Aberdeen gladly settle for third place in a season such as this; Celtic’s previous run of dire form meant McInnes and his players had a real opportunity to push for second. Instead, Aberdeen have now failed to score in seven of their last eight games, lie fourth and trail Celtic by 19 points.

Despite the deployment of two attackers against vulnerable opposition, Aberdeen carried all the menace of a nursery rhyme for the vast majority of the game.

In the back row of Celtic Park’s main stand sat Nick Hammond, the club’s head of football operations. Given Hammond’s supposed specialism for recruitment, it is he who should really answer a string of questions relating to awful purchases that contributed heavily to Lennon’s downfall.

But Hammond lurks in the shadows; the blunt reality is most supporters could not pick him out from a lineup, incongruous though that is in respect of his influence. Shane Duffy and Albian Ajeti, two significant summer arrivals, were named on the bench by Kennedy. Vasilis Barkas, a £5m goalkeeper, was not even in the squad.

That Kennedy has not been seriously quoted as Lennon’s long-term successor owes plenty to the notion of guilt by association. He has been the assistant manager. It would, however, be unfair to dismiss Kennedy’s credentials entirely.

Kennedy’s early moments here were fraught.

Aberdeen could have gone ahead through two Ash Taylor headers, which hit the bar and brought out a stunning Scott Bain save respectively. Defending cross balls has been a Celtic weakness all season.

There was fortune and a heap of it attached to the goal that settled home nerves. Odsonne Édouard’s shot surely would not have troubled Joe Lewis but for a wild deflection off Tommie Hoban as rendered the Aberdeen goalkeeper helpless.

For the remainder of the first half, Aberdeen offered little as Celtic grew in confidence. David Turnbull, one bright spot from this dismal Celtic season, drew a fine stop from Lewis after a weaving run. Patryk Klimala should have doubled the hosts’ lead after 20 minutes but instead flicked wide from Jonjoe Kenny’s excellent cross.

Celtic noticeably regressed during a disjointed second period. Set pieces, Aberdeen’s best hope of salvation, were squandered. Lewis was not called into serious action at all. If this low-key backdrop rather summed up Celtic’s season, at least this time there are three points as comfort.