MOHAMED ELYOUNOUSSI has apologised for missing the chance in 22 minutes that would almost certainly have set Celtic up for another European glory night under the lights at Parkhead.
The on-loan Southampton left-sided raider drove in from the wing, passed to Tom Rogic and the ball was deflected back into his path.
With the goal gaping, the Norwegian international lost his composure at the crucial moment and wildly blazed his wayward effort high over the bar as the FC Copenhagen defence breathed a massive sigh of relief.
The Danes showed Elyounoussi and the Hoops how it was done in the second-half when they scored with all three shots on target as Neil Lennon’s men headed for the exit on the wrong end of a 4-2 aggregate scoreline.
Jozo Simunovic was the main target for criticism afterwards following his glaring blunder to gift the visitors the opening goal that started the rot.
Afterwards, the Hoops boss refused to point the finger of blame at any of his players and insisted no-one would be thrown under a bus, as CQN reported.
Elynoussi, speaking to the Evening Times, said: “Jozo has nothing to apologise for. We win as a team and we lose as a team.
“I should have scored right in front of goal, so I should say sorry. He has nothing to be sorry for.
MIRROR IMAGE…Mohamed Elyounoussi displays his despair after his miss against the Danes. The fan in the background is in sync.
“I’m sure he will think about it a little bit, but he will get rid of it and focus on the next one.
“It gave them a boost when they scored, but we should have kept our composure and scored more than just one. It shouldn’t really have mattered when they scored that goal.
“We are disappointed for the fans and everyone who loves this club that we could not provide the win that everyone wanted. It would have been our night if we had scored more than one goal and we should have done.
“I thought we dominated and we created chances which we should have taken. I should have scored, definitely. We were so close, but it wasn’t enough. They defended very well, they were organised and they hurt us with their counter-attacks.”
Celtic, of course, didn’t need to win and Odsonne Edouard’s away goal would have been enough to see the team safely through to the competition’s last-16 if the tie in Glasgow had remained scoreless.
However, Elyounoussi continued: “We still wanted to attack and be on the front foot and going for the goal.
“We knew they had to score the first goal, but we wanted to go for the win for our fans, so we kept attacking and attacking.
“We were just unlucky in front of goal. It didn’t quite work out in the last third with the last shot or pass.
“I think the first-half was good, we started the second-half okay, but when they got the goal it gave them a boost.
“We should have had more composure after they scored, because I think we are the better team.
“If we had kept our composure as we did in the first-half and kept trying to find the gaps, we would have created more chances.”
ON THE BALL…Mohamed Elyounoussi drives at the FC Copenhagen defence.
The Copenhagen game was the first that Elyounoussi had started since the Betfred League Cup Final win over Steven Gerrard’s Ibrox side on December 8 following a foot injury sustained on international duty in November.
The pace of the game showed on the forward and he was eventually replaced by Lennon in the 70th minute with Leigh Griffiths taking his place.
Now Elyounoussi is looking forward to tomorrow’s Scottish Cup quarter-final meeting with St Johnstone in Perth and added: “I want to make an impact. Everyone wants to play.
“I was thrown into it against Copenhagen and did okay, especially in the first-half. We had chances and I should have scored, so I’m very disappointed with that.
“I always want to play and help the team win games, so I’m disappointed I couldn’t help the team on Thursday.
“I should have taken more responsibility, especially in front of goal, but that gives me even more motivation for the games coming up.
”Now all we can do is focus on the league and the Scottish Cup. Obviously, we wanted to go further in Europe and we had a good opportunity, but we didn’t take it.
“We felt that frustration on Thursday night, but we have to let it go now and prepare for tomorrow. Winning the treble would make up for this defeat.
“Hopefully, we will take our frustration out on St Johnstone and go on to win the other two trophies. We’re hungrier than ever now and we will use the defeat to Copenhagen as motivation for the rest of this season so that we can give something back to the fans.”