‘WE CAN SHUT OUT ZENIT AGAIN,’ AJER

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KRISTOFFER AJER is aiming to stage an action replay when Celtic take on Zenit St Petersburg in the second leg of their Europa League last-32 encounter in Russia on Thursday.

The 6ft 5in Norwegian, alongside Jozo Simunovic in the heart of the defence, was outstanding in last week’s first game where a superb goal 12 minutes from time by Callum McGregor gave Brendan Rodgers’s men the advantage.

Ajer is now determined to shut out Roberto Mancini’s expensively-assembled outfit for the second successive occasion.

The 19-year-old centre-back said: “I don’t think Zenit St Petersburg were rusty at all in the first leg. It was just that we played very well.

“They gave us a really good fight, but we were up for the game and I felt we pressed them really well.

“It was a great performance and we deserved to win.

“We limited them to few chances. They had one big chance, but Dorus de Vries pulled off a fantastic save from Anton Zabolotny. Other than that, we avoided giving away too much.

“It was good to perform like that. It was important for our confidence.

“Of course, we know Zenit can hurt us in the return and we know it will be a tough game. But the positive is we’ve shown them we can defend even if they put us under pressure.

“We have no fear about that. We’ve shown that in several games. We are travelling to Russia with the aim of going through.”

Ajer added: “To get a clean sheet at Celtic Park before the game in Russia was important. It was a great result and it has put us in a strong position.

“Of course, we know the tie is still in the balance. In these European games, it’s still very open. Zenit can get an early goal and then we are back at 1-1.

“But if we score a goal away from home, having not lost one in the first game, then they will need three.

“So, we will go over to Russia focused. The key is in thinking it is still 0-0 and knowing that we still have to perform to our best levels again.

“We will go and try to perform out there at the same level we did at Celtic Park and, hopefully, get another good result.”

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