Half-time team talk from Lenny secured win, insists Ajer
KRISTOFFER Ajer has revealed how a half-time team talk from interim manager Neil Lennon ensured that Celtic edged out Kilmarnock – and pledged to help the triple treble contenders to maintain their second-half performance level for the remainder of the season.
Steve Clarke’s side performed superbly in the opening 45 minutes of the Ladbrokes Premiership match at Parkhead on Saturday and Chris Burke, Liam Millar and Conor McAleny all forced good saves from Scott Bain.
But Ajer, who was fortunate not to gift Eamonn Brophy a goal in the first half when he was robbed of possession, explained how Lennon had addressed the problems the home team were experiencing and ensured they picked up all three points.
A second-half Jozo Simunovic goal meant the Glasgow club, who can win all three domestic trophies for the third season running in the 2018/19 campaign, remained nine points clear of Rangers with just three games remaining.
“We knew of course that Kilmarnock would make it extremely difficult for us,” he said. “They’ve had a few fantastic seasons and I think they did really well against us.
“We were a bit all over the place in the first half. The gaffer had a great talk at halftime and I think our second half was a lot better. It was about getting the team more compact and a little bit more energy in our offensive play. I think it really worked out well.”
Asked if it was hard to keep performing at a high level near the end of another long season, Ajer said: “I don’t think it’s difficult at all. You play for so much at the end of the season. That’s why you play the whole season – to be in the position we are now.
“You just have to keep focused. We need to look to perform well against Aberdeen and in our last few games of the season. Hopefully we can stay focused and get the results we want.”
Meanwhile, Ajer admitted he was enjoying his blossoming centre-half partnership with match-winner Simunovic – the pair have helped Celtic keep clean sheets in their last five games – but wasn’t taking his place in the first team for granted.
“Jozo and I have performed really well in recent weeks,” he said. “However, at Celtic you’re never better than your last game.” Matthew Lindsay