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Super-sub Mohamed Elyounoussi eager to claim Celtic starting spot

Celtic v Kilmarnock – Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership – Celtic Park
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Celtic super-substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi has vowed to make boss Neil Lennon think twice about naming him on the bench in future.

The Norwegian was a regular starter as the new campaign got under way but has found himself confined to the substitutes bench for the past three games.

But the 26-year-old struck a claim to regain his slot in Lennon’s XI when he fired home a last-gasp winner in Riga to send the Scottish champions through to the Europa League play-off round.

The Parkhead boss declared after the victory in the Latvian capital his hope that the goal would help Elyounoussi “kick-start” his season.

And the Southampton loanee is ready to get motoring.

Elyounoussi – who struck just eight minutes after replacing Odsonne Edouard – said: “I’m pleased to help the team win the game.

“That’s what you want as a forward, to create chances and score goals.

“It’s hard when you’re sitting in the stand watching the game. It was a tough game, Riga defended well so those are the type of games you want to come on and score.

“Of course, like everyone else you want to play every game. But when you’re not in the starting XI then you just want to contribute any way you can.

“I’m just delighted I could come in and score the goal.

“Obviously it has been a little bit challenging to be left out. But I see this as a challenge. There’s two options – either you go around being frustrated or you pick yourself up and try to prove the manager wrong.

“So I’m trying to train hard and show that I deserve to play.”

Elyounoussi’s goal has teed up a trip to Sarajevo next Thursday but the £16million winger knows the Hoops are likely to face another battle if they are to secure safe passage to the group stages.

Celtic have lacked a spark at times on the domestic scene this season and laboured again through their clash at Skonto Stadium before Elyounoussi came off the bench to seal the win just as extra-time was looming.

“Those games are really tough,” he said. “Teams in Europe are tough. They are going to try to everything to qualify and the game last night proved that.

“Riga defended well and had a good game.

“But it’s all about being patient. We have enough quality both in the guys who started and the players on the bench, so we can use the full squad

“Hopefully we can score earlier next time.”