Neil Lennon hailed the “incredible impact” Odsonne Edouard had by coming off the bench to score a quick-fire double in Celtic’s 3-0 win over Ross County at Parkhead.
Both sides passed up on good opportunities to take the lead before Hoops midfielder Callum McGregor converted a penalty in the 37th minute, but it was proving to be hard work until the Frenchman, benched due to a toe problem, replaced Leigh Griffiths in the 63rd minute.
He notched twice in three minutes to take his tally to 20 and move Celtic five points clear of Rangers at the top of the Ladbrokes Premiership, with the Light Blues playing Hearts at Tynecastle on Sunday.
Speaking to BBC Scotland after the game, boss Lennon said: “He is hugely important. He is an outstanding footballer, almost talismanic. He is up there with some of the best we’ve had over the last 20 years.”
The Northern Irishman expanded in the post-match press conference, saying: “It (20 goals) is fantastic. He is playing better than ever and we are delighted with that.
“I am delighted with the goal tallies of a lot of the players, Odsonne, Ryan Christie, James Forrest, they are well into double figures. I think that is McGregor’s eighth and we are racking up the goals.
“Obviously the impact Odsonne made when he came on was huge and the game opened up and we could have scored a few more.
“His foot was in a boot. He did a fitness session last night and he said it felt a lot better. We were concerned he wouldn’t do the 90 minutes so it has worked out OK.
“He looked fresh and had an incredible impact when he came on and showed the qualities he has and he should be OK for Wednesday (St Johnstone game).
“It was very reassuring (to have him on the bench) he is a class player. You always worry about a toe injury, it was quite tender but he looked fine and fresh and you could see the lift he gave to the team and his second goal was a great goal, a great finish.
“In the context of the season it is a brilliant win.”
For County co-manager Steven Ferguson, it was a case of ruing missed chances.
He said: “I feel there was a marked improvement from the last time here (6-0 defeat).
“We wanted to make sure we were in the game but offer that threat at the top end of the pitch. And the chances we created suggested we got that right and the players did what was expected.
“Unfortunately we never took the chances and if you don’t take the chances you are always vulnerable to conceding a goal at Parkhead with the quality Celtic have in their team.
“I feel the goals were avoidable and it was a soft penalty, but regarding our performance, it was an improvement since the last time here.”