He missed their best chance to score in the Mestalla but tonight Kris Ajer came of age as a
After 62 minutes he rose perfectly to meet a Ryan Christie free kick from the right but got too much on his header when simply glancing it would have opened the tie right up.
Eight minutes later Kevin Gameiro scored the only goal of the game but when the final whistle blew there wasn’t a failure in the Celtic side.
The travelling support witnessed tame performances away to RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig in the group phase but against overwhelming odds, increased by the 37th minute sending off of Jeremy Toljan, the Bhoys stood up to be counted.
The 6 foot 5 youngster started off on the right of a back three and played the role with great discipline. When Toljan walked he had to go out to right-back and barely gave the Spanish side a look in.
The 20-year-old was disciplined and determined as Valencia tried to flood the flanks to find a way to goal. Ajer was well backed by his defensive team-mates as Celtic stood their ground until they were cut open for Gameiro’s goal.
His header just past the hour mark will obviously be remembered but in one of the toughest venues in the Europa League Brendan Rodgers got a glimpse of a future central defence without Filip Benkovic and Dedryck Boyata.
Here’s what Celtic fans have been saying on Twitter…
Apart from that “heid-like-a-thruppenny-bit’ header, big Kris Ajer has been absolutely fantastic tonight
— ☯CarlJungleBhoy❋ (@CarlJungleBhoy) February 21, 2019
Ajer is the future. Should be a starter for the rest of the season for me.
— Timothy Leary (@sharko67) February 21, 2019
Jonny Hayes top class. Ajer has been a warrior. Ye can accept this result given our level of performance – tie was over in the first leg. Quadruple not to be but a treble will do nicely.
— Kieran Caw (@Kieran_Celtic) February 21, 2019
Ajer has alerted every Spanish club to his attributes tonight!
— StMiley (@StMiley) February 21, 2019
So much here. Kris Ajer (20) epic performance. Calum, Broon superb. Good show by Hayes… dominant with 11men
— JOLLY BHOY (@fultybhoy4) February 21, 2019
Some of the unsung players very good tonight inc Hayes, Ajer and Jozo … if the header had went in….
— Tumble Drift (@GerryH64) February 21, 2019
Feeling positive after that, more than a few players showed me the desire. AJER, Bain, Hayes all played very well. Euro over for one more year. Onto 8 in a row now.
— Bishop Crosas CSC (@BishopCrosasCSC) February 21, 2019