By Richard Parks
Chris Sutton has revealed he was blown away by Eboue Kouassi’s midfield display in Celtic’s Europa League triumph against Zenit St Petersburg on Thursday night.
The Ivorian was handed a rare start for Brendan Rodgers’ injury-ravaged side which was deprived of a series of leading lights including the likes of Nir Bitton, Tom Rogic and Stuart Armstrong, who had previously been ahead of him in the pecking order.
Former Hoops forward Sutton raved about the performance of Kouassi, who has had a stop-start time at Celtic since joining in January of last year.
It was just his 15th appearance for the club, and only the 10th of the season, after he had been strongly criticised by supporters in the past.
“Rodgers got it spot on,” Sutton wrote in his weekly Daily Record column. “The midfield boys were sensational with Olivier Ntcham and Eboue Kouassi excelling alongside their captain.
“Scott Brown is a massive player in those type of situations and he delivered. But Eboue impressed in the way he did his jobs simply and enthusiastically. He pressed it, he won it and he passed it. Nothing flash or silly.”
Callum McGregor scored the game’s only goal as Celtic secured a 1-0 win to take into the second leg of the last-32 clash in Russia on Thursday of next week.
Football Insider verdict:
The ugly duckling is finally starting to transform into a swan. There is no doubt it has been a tough year for Kouassi at Celtic. He has suffered a series of injuries and struggled to adapt to the physical demands of the Scottish top flight. Many Hoops fans had written him off as little short of hopeless. But something has clicked for the 20-year-old in recent weeks and he has been one of the prime beneficiaries of the injury crisis that has robbed Celtic of so many key men. Rodgers has a track record of developing talent and there are finally signs he could have a decent one on his hands in the Ivorian.