At this rate, £9 million is going to look like a bargain price for Odsonne Edouard. Celtic’s all-time record signing transformed a nervy and uncertain display from the Scottish champions into a commanding victory which should be enough to take them into the third qualifying round of the Champions League.
The 20-year-old French striker’s brilliant double, either side of a stunning goal from his compatriot Olivier Ntcham, saw Brendan Rodgers’ side recover impressively from falling behind to Birger Meling’s early goal for Rosenborg.
The absence of the injured Moussa Dembele was barely noticed last night as Edouard again served notice of the rich potential which persuaded Celtic to secure his permanent transfer from Paris Saint-Germain.
There is still work to be done for Celtic in the second leg in Trondheim next week but they are firm favourites to set up a meeting with AEK Athens in the next phase of the tournament.
Rosenborg could certainly claim to have earned Meling’s 16th minute opener as a reward for their enterprising approach which saw them start the match every bit as purposefully as Celtic.
But as well worked and neatly finished as the goal was, it all stemmed from a basic and needless error from Jack Hendry when he was under no great pressure.
Celtic were in possession around 10 yards inside the Rosenborg half when Hendry’s sloppy attempt at a pass was intercepted eagerly by Mike Jensen, the visitors’ hugely impressive captain.
From that moment, Celtic were caught on their heels as Rosenborg moved the ball swiftly. Pal Andre Helland evaded challenges from both Kieran Tierney and Scott Brown with relative ease before switching the play to Nicklas Bendtner on the left of the Celtic penalty area.
The big striker held the ball up before rolling it into the path of Meling, the left-back’s run into the box having gone completely untracked by Cristian Gamboa who was making his first starting appearance for Celtic since February.
Craig Gordon was beaten comprehensively by Meling’s clever and assured left foot shot which nestled low inside the ‘keeper’s right hand post.
It was already clear that Rosenborg posed a more than credible threat to Celtic’s Champions League ambitions, regardless of the turmoil at the club since the surprising sacking of their popular manager Kare Ingebrigtsen last week.
New boss Rini Coolen had wisely resisted any temptation to tinker with a side who looked settled and firmly focused as they looked to avenge their defeat to Rodgers’ men at this stage of the tournament 12 months ago.
Celtic took time to find any kind of rhythm and accuracy in their attacking work, although Kristoffer Ajer should perhaps have done better when he was unable to find the target with a free header from Callum McGregor’s 20th minute corner.
McGregor then forced Rosenborg ‘keeper Andre Hansen into his first notable save of the evening with a stinging shot from 22 yards which was confidently dealt with.
Celtic were still struggling to subdue the influential Jensen and Brown collected a booking for a hefty foul on his opposing skipper right on the edge of the penalty area. Fortunately for the hosts, the free-kick came to nothing.
The home support were convinced their side should have had a penalty in the 34th minute and they looked to have a strong case as Ntcham went down under Vegar Hedenstad’s clumsy challenge. Belgian referee Bart Vertenten was well positioned and waved play on.
Celtic could ill afford Rosenborg enjoying the confidence of taking their lead into the break and Edouard’s 43rd minute equaliser was as well-timed as it was welcome.
Scott Sinclair, who had blazed a shot over inside the first 30 seconds, had struggled to impose himself on the Rosenborg defence since. But the winger delivered when it mattered, working space on the left to tee up Edouard for a precise finish from around eight yards.
Celtic now had a level of momentum which they carried into the second half to devastating effect as Ntcham put them 2-1 in front barely 30 seconds after the restart. It was a magnificent strike from the midfielder who collected a pass from Brown before steadying himself and curling the ball right-footed high beyond Hansen’s left hand into the top corner.
Rosenborg were visibly reeling as Celtic turned up the tempo and the Norwegian champions were fortunate not to fall further behind when a cross-cum-shot from the increasingly influential McGregor rebounded off Hansen’s right hand post with the ‘keeper back-pedalling desperately.
If the first half had been evenly contested, it was one-way traffic now and Hansen was forced into a fine reaction stop to keep out Sinclair’s angled drive from around 10 yards. The ‘keeper bettered that in the 67th minute with a breathtaking save as he somehow managed to touch Ntcham’s thunderous long range drive onto the crossbar.
But Hansen had no answer when Edouard finally gave Celtic the breathing space of a third goal which their dominance now merited with 15 minutes remaining. James Forrest seized upon a rare error from Jensen and threaded a through ball into Edouard who, with the tiring visitors appealing in vain for offside, surged into the box and lofted a delightfully impudent shot over the advancing Hansen.
It could have been even better for Celtic as Hendry’s late header struck the crossbar but there will be no complaints at the final outcome after such a shaky start to the night.
CELTIC: Gordon; Gamboa, Hendry, Ajer, Tierney; Brown, Ntcham (Rogic 76); McGregor, Forrest, Sinclair; Edouard. Subs not used: Bain, Christie, Allan, Ralston, Johnston, Kouassi.
ROSENBORG: Hansen, Hedenstad, Reginiussen, Hovland, Meling; Jensen, Lundemo (Soderlund 61), Trondsen; Helland (Gersbach 72), Bendtner, Levi. Subs not used: Ostbo, Vilhjalmsson, Reitan, Konradsen, Ceide.