NIR BITTON was singled out for praise by Neil Lennon in the wake of Celtic’s Champions League qualifier win in Sarajevo as the Celtic manager admitted he needs more defenders.

The Israeli, who missed a year of football because of a serious knee injury, filled in at centre-back for Tuesday night’s 3-1 win to the Scottish champions and was one of the stand-out performers.

Bitton played at the back for Brendan Rodgers, with mixed results, but he was the best of Celtic’s back three against FK Sarajevo.

The 27-year-old was signed seven years ago for Celtic, by Lennon when he was manager first time around, and the Northern Irishman was full of praise for a player who last year feared his career was over, so serious was the damage done to his cruciate ligament.

Lennon said: “I'm looking for a big season from Nir – no matter what position he plays. He's had a very good pre-season after a bad injury. It was a concerted period out for him – 10 months to a year.

"He played a few games for me last season but he still had a little problem with his knee. Nir went away with Israel and has come back looking really good.

"We have now thrown down the challenge to him to step up and make an impact on the team. He has the game to do it. Nir is 27 and he's a good athlete. There is more to come from him. But I have been very pleased with him so far.”

But while Lennon was happy with Bitton’s contribution in defence, Celtic need more players to come because as the manager knows only too well, makeshift teams only get so far in Europe.

Lennon said: “Nir can play at the back but it's not ideal. Christopher Jullien isn't up to speed yet and we are still looking to strengthen there too. Ideally, I'd like Bitton to play in midfield but he showed his qualities in defence too.

"Kristoffer Ajer was outstanding but we are looking to bring quality in. It's not an easy process but we are working away in the background. Right-back is a key area to strengthen.”

Lennon was delighted with his team in Sarajevo with two players in particular catching the manager’s eye.

He said: “I was really happy with the goals. They were good finishes. There was also a maturity about the team when we went behind. They didn't panic at all.

"Callum McGregor was outstanding again and he linked everything together. We also had Ryan Christie finding pockets of space, so I was really pleased with him.

“He's a great player and I said to him after the game that he should have scored. There was one when he tried to flick a pass to Scott Sinclair instead of shooting. At times, he's probably too unselfish but he was full of it and played well.

"Defensively we were also good, even though we didn't have that much to do. Overall, it's still a work in progress.”