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Saving grace

Neil Lennon was effusive in his praise of Fraser Forster last night after the Celtic goalkeeper recovered from an embarrassing error in the first half to help his side record a valuable draw against Rennes in the Europa League.

Neil Lennon has praised goalkeeper Fraser Forster
Neil Lennon has praised goalkeeper Fraser Forster

NEIL LENNON was effusive in his praise of Fraser Forster last night after the Celtic goalkeeper recovered from an embarrassing error in the first half to help his side record a valuable draw against Rennes in the Europa League.

A lack of communication between Forster and Cha Du-Ri, the Celtic full-back, culminated in the Korean nudging the ball into net to give the French side the lead.

The Celtic goalkeeper has since accepted responsibility for the incident, while his mood was lifted somewhat by Joe Ledley’s headed equaliser during the second half.

That goal helped rescue a point but had it not been for a plethora of fine saves from Forster it could have been yet another chastening night in Europe for his side.

Lennon admits the nature of Rennes’ goal had been discussed during half-time but praise both Cha and Forster for their performances in the second half.

“The two guys involved showed great character,” said the Celtic manager, who embraced his goalkeeper as he made his way off the field. “Cha had a great second half and Forster made some wonderful saves. Away from home, no matter who you are, you need your goalkeeper to make some good saves at crucial moments and he did that for us having come out in the second half probably feeling as low as he can get.

“We had a chat with him at half-time about the goal, as you can imagine, and he was fantastic and I can’t speak highly enough about him. That’s exactly the type of reaction I was looking for and he was a great example to the rest of the squad. It’s a great way to bounce back and he showed all the qualities which made us chase him again in the summer.

“We did create chances and so, on the balance of play, to create the chances we did with what was a depleted squad is testament to the players in that dressing room.”

The opening goal will have provoked a familiar feeling for Lennon. The Parkhead side have not convinced in defence this season, and the Celtic manager admitted he did feel some trepidation after the latest mistake.

“The goal came from a free-kick we had in a wide area,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it was one of those things -- it came from a communication breakdown. You can’t legislate for that, no matter how well you prepare the team.

“The players didn’t deserve that and you felt, ‘is this going to happen again?’ So it was important to get them in at half-time and settle them down. The reaction was everything I wanted from them and we look forward to the next three games.”

Forster found the Stade de la Route de Lorient a “lonely” place to be after the goal, but accepted he should have been more commanding in dealing with the situation. “It was completely my fault,” he said. “It was just a bad mistake and it should never have happened. I just need to do better and be a bit louder. I wasn’t loud enough. Everyone makes mistakes but you have to put it behind you and move on. There isn’t a person on the planet who hasn’t made a mistake, especially in football.

“It can be a lonely place but you have to forget that it ever happened. You can’t change the past.”

Celtic remain bottom of Group I on goal difference but are only two points behind second-placed Atletico Madrid, who lost at Udinese. “What we didn’t want to do was leave here out of the running in a very difficult group,” said Lennon.

“To perform the way we did throughout the game and create the chances that we did was pleasing and we at least deserved the point.”

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