John Kennedy makes admission on Albian Ajeti's mystery Celtic squad omission

Celtic interim manager John Kennedy has sought to downplay any significance in Albian Ajeti’s omission from his squad for Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Rangers.

Striker Albian Ajeti's miserable debut season for Celtic took another twist when he was left out of the squad for the 1-1 draw with Rangers. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

The Swiss international striker largely has been a peripheral figure for the Parkhead men across an ignominious debut season in Scotland subsequent to a £5m move from West Ham in August. The 24-year-old has netted only one of his six goals for the club in the past six months, and with niggling injuries and fitness concerns, has earned only 13 starts.

However, Sunday marked a new low for the player as the visit of the Ibrox men proved the first game for which he has been available that he has failed even to make the bench. Kennedy, who hasn’t given Ajeti any minutes across his three matches in charge, dismissed any potential issues from his call to name only fellow forwards Leigh Griffiths and Patryk Klimala as substitutes for the derby.

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“We had so many fit players and everyone wanted to be involved. Three strikers on the bench for the game wasn’t quite right,” said Celtic’s interim manager. “I spoke to Albian and addressed it so there’s no drama. Every game is different. We needed a balance on the bench but it’s fine.”

Celtic’s balance at set-pieces once more proved wanting in the equaliser conceded from a corner against Steven Gerrard’s men. Alfredo Morelos capitalised on Celtic’s all-too-familiar failings this season stemming from losing the first header from setplays delivered into their box. A flick on from Leon Balogun allowed the Colombian to nod in to deny the home side a victory their dominance of the encounter should have earned.

The goal was the 50th Celtic have coughed up in this traumatic season. Corners have accounted for 12 of these, with six coming from free-kicks floated in from wide areas. These weaknesses have been exploited for all four goals they have leaked against Rangers. Kennedy acknowledges set-pieces have been a “woe” but is sensitive about the inability to end the Ibrox men’s bid for an unbeaten league campaign being boiled down to that 38th minute breach.

“It is something we have worked a lot on and will continue to work on. We will never stop until we fix it,” he said. “Even when we fix it we will continue with that. I don’t want the review of the game to be about Celtic conceding at another set play. I want people to look at the actual performance. We showed we were the better team, we created better chances and ultimately we should have won. It is something we will fix and continue trying to address. But overall the quality of performance was good.”

Stephen Welsh was one Celtic player who enhanced his reputation, with the 22-year-old centre-back having made himself a fixture in the side this year. “He had a quiet game – that’s a great thing for a centre back. It means you are not making any mistakes,” said Kennedy. “Stephen is a terrific boy and he thoroughly deserves his place in the team at the minute. He’s consistent, knows what he is doing and knows the role. He’s a real team player who puts his body on the line and has improved his distribution massively.”

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