JUST when it looked like a late penalty, awarded in dramatic fashion after referee Artur Dias had consulted VAR and netted coolly by Odsonne Edouard, had handed Celtic a lifeline disaster struck for the Scottish champions.

Two criminally soft goals in the last five minutes from Pep Biel and Dame N’Doye saw Neil Lennon’s side lose the second leg of the Europa League last 32 double header 3-1 and the tie 4-2 on aggregate and crash out.

It was a cruel way for them to end a game they had, despite performing some way below their best, battled back bravely in not to mention a run which had seen them beat Lazio home and away and top their group for the first time in their history.

But Lennon and his players could have no complaints. They got exactly what they deserved. Their defending in particular was dire.

HeraldScotland:

With Rangers defeating Braga in Portugal on Wednesday night there was a strong possibility that two Scottish clubs could go into the last 16 draw this afternoon and possibly even end up facing each other.

However, the Ibrox club are this country’s sole remaining representatives in continental competition after this – something that their supporters will not be slow to mention after years of their city rivals lording it over them.

Perhaps the change of formation from the 3-5-2 that Celtic have enjoyed such success with in 2020 to a 4-2-3-1 system was responsible for the woeful showing. Maybe the absence of Ryan Christie and Olivier Nthcam was costly. Whatever the reason, the better side won, and won comfortably, and went through.

HeraldScotland:

Celtic have despatched far more illustrious and dangerous rivals than Copenhagen on their European adventure this term. But they struggled to break down well-organised if limited opponents in the first-half. When they did get in behind them their finishing was poor.

Kristoffer Ajer had a close-range attempt blocked by Carlos Zeca, James Forrest failed to connect with an excellent Mohammed Elyounoussi delivery and then Elyounoussi himself fired over himself after linking well with Tom Rogic. When Edouard nodded a weak downward header straight at keeper Karl-Johan Johnsson just before half-time it summed up their night.

Scott Brown, normally the heart beat of the Celtic team, had recovered from the calf strain he picked up in the second-half in Denmark to take his place in the starting line-up. However, he was definitely not his normal self. He gave the ball away sloppily and uncharacteristically in the middle of the park on more than one occasion during the opening 45 minutes.

Lennon couldn’t disguise his frustration at what he was witnessing. He held his hands up in exasperation and turned to the main stand as if looking for an answer. He will have had a few choice words for his charges at the break.

Callum McGregor netted at an Elyounoussi corner with a shot from the edge of the Copenhagen area in the 50th minute. But match official Dias ruled that Christopher Jullien had barged Johnsson and disallowed it. It was a harsh decision.

The suspicion that this wasn’t going to be Celtic’s night increased just a moment later when they fell behind against the run of play. It was an entirely self-inflicted wound. Jozo Simunovic underhit a passback to Fraser Forster and Santos, who had come on for Kaufmann just before half-time, pounced.

HeraldScotland:

His pass was cut out by Jullien. But the ball fell straight back to the Uruguayan forward who had the simplest of tasks to open the scoring and put the visitors 2-1 ahead on aggregate. The 1,500-strong travelling support drowned out the home fans with their celebrations.

Edouard could have levelled the tie after an hour when Rogic sent him marauding into the away team’s box. But the French forward ran straight into Nelsson and lost the ball.

Lennon made his first change in the 70th minute. Leigh Griffiths came on for Elyounoussi to a huge roar. He had soon made his presence felt by forcing a one-handed save from Johnsson after a period of sustained Celtic pressure.

Celtic got a break in the 80th minute when, after protests from Brown and his team mates, Dias checked VAR, ruled that Ragnar Sigurdsson had handled a cross and gave a spot kick. After an interminable wait, Edouard dinked over Johnsson. The ground erupted.

HeraldScotland:

That should have been the cue for the treble treble winners to kill the game off. Instead, exactly the opposite happened. Biel slotted through Forster’s legs in the 85th minute and three minutes later N’Doye piled on the misery.