RELIEVED Neil Lennon hailed goalkeeping hero Fraser Forster after his dramatic 78th-minute penalty-kick save gave Celtic a 1-1 draw with FC Copenhagen last night.
The skyscraper shotstopper swooped to his right to push Jens Stage’s spot-kick onto the post to edge the Hoops closer to the Europa League last-16 with the second leg due at Parkhead on Thursday.
Referee Sergei Karasev penalised Ryan Christie for a handball after consulting the Video Assistant Referee, the first time the technology has been utilised in a game concerning a Scottish club.
The match official checked the pitchside monitor before pointing to the spot and then booking the midfielder, a caution which will keep him out of the return leg.
The Hoops had led through Odsonne Edouard’s clipped finish in the 14th minute, but sloppy play on the edge of the box in the 52nd minute by Olivier Ntcham, who was substituted shortly afterwards, allowed Stale Solbakken’s side a leveller through Dame N’Doye.
Then came Forster’s big moment to make sure the visitors took something home after another positive result on the road.
Lennon lauded the England international and, speaking to the Daily Mail, said: “He’s brilliant, but that’s down to the work that he and Stevie Woods do behind the scenes.
“I have no real complaint about the penalty – it does come off Ryan’s arm in an unnatural position, if you want to call it that.
“Credit to Fraser, he’s done brilliantly with a magnificent save. I think it would have been really harsh on us if we’d lost the game with the amount of chances we had, especially in the first-half.
“But we have the away goal, so the tie is set up nicely for going back to Glasgow.”
Lennon continued: “I thought we had good control of the first-half and going in 1-0 at half-time I thought we could have been maybe two or three up.
“We gave away a poor goal from our point of view and it gave Copenhagen a huge lift psychology. But on the counter-attack we had some great chances in the second-half, as well, so I’m disappointed we haven’t come away with more goals.
“I think most people would have taken that before the game. It was a partisan crowd, a difficult atmosphere to play in, it’s loud.
“In the main, I thought the players handled it pretty well, just in the last 20 minutes they had to dig in, dig deep and show some resilience.”
Skipper Scott Brown limped out of the action with a calf strain in the 73rd minute and is now doubtful for the Premiership meeting with Kilmarnock at Parkhead on Sunday.
The Hoops gaffer commented: “Obviously, we lost Browny with a calf strain and we’ll have to see how that is, but, overall, we are pleased with the score.
“It was a great game of football, it ebbed and flowed. I am disappointed, if I’m honest, that we aren’t ahead in the tie.
“In the first couple of minutes we had a great chance and then another shortly after that and then we scored and we then had a couple of great counter-attacks we could have picked them off and put the tie to bed.
“It shows that we can score against them, that’s for sure, and open them up. But we have to pay respect to Copenhagen they came back very strongly in the second-half.
“To come away from home, it is really difficult. I am delighted that we have come away with a decent result.”
‘Asked if he was confident of progressing on the back of an away goal, Lennon added: “I wouldn’t say confident, you can’t be confident.
“You can believe and I think the players will believe that, as well. They have the capabilities to score at Celtic Park.”