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Fraser Forster rescues Celtic with penalty save against Copenhagen

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Celtic were thankful for Fraser Forster saving a late penalty from Jens Stage to secure a draw in the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie.

Neil Lennon was full of praise for the Southampton loanee. “He’s brilliant. He’s made a magnificent save. I felt it would’ve been really harsh on us to have lost with the amount of chances we had and particularly the first-half performance.”

Lennon added that his side had not been ruthless enough but was delighted to have an away goal in the bag. Celtic controlled the game until Dame N’Doye’s equaliser sparked Copenhagen to life.

Odsonne Édouard missed a couple of early chances for Celtic before scoring with his third opportunity, his clever finish taking his tally for the season to 25.

In what was Celtic’s first experience of VAR in a competitive game, the referee, Sergei Karasev, used a pitchside monitor to give Copenhagen a penalty in the 78th minute for a Ryan Christie handball – his yellow card meaning the midfielder misses next week’s return at Parkhead. Forster came to his rescue, tipping Stage’s penalty on to a post.

Lennon made three changes. The teenage right-back Jeremie Frimpong made his European debut and on the other flank Jonny Hayes came in for the injured left-back Greg Taylor.

Christie took over from Leigh Griffiths, who was left behind in Glasgow with a minor injury, and less than a minute had been played when he sent Édouard clean through on goal. The striker’s shot was blocked by Karl-Johan Johnsson, with the defender Victor Nelsson getting in the way of Édouard’s next effort from a tight angle and the ball ricocheting out for a goal-kick.

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Johnsson again thwarted Édouard after he raced on to a James Forrest pass three minutes later and then saved Olivier Ntcham’s rebound shot.

In what was an encouraging start the 3,000 or so Celtic fans packed behind one end were soon celebrating when Callum McGregor took a Christie pass and moved the ball on to Édouard, who this time dinked the ball over Nelsson and Johnsson from 10 yards for a deserved opener.

Celtic controlled the tempo but the home side had a chance when Bryan Oviedo drove in from the left but missed the target with a shot as unconvincing as his side’s first-half performance.

Copenhagen raised the tempo after the break and after Ntcham was caught in possession outside the box Rasmus Falk played in N’Doye and he flashed a shot from 12 yards past Forster and in off the post.

McGregor fired high over the crossbar at the end of a swift Celtic break, before Mohamed Elyounoussi replaced Ntcham. Édouard stabbed at a Hayes cut-back from eight yards but Johnsson blocked with his foot.

Nir Bitton replaced Scott Brown before Celtic had to withstand a period of heavy pressure.

Celtic will be favourites to make the last 16 and will have their goalkeeper to thank if they succeed and only themselves to blame if they do not.

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