BY ALAN TEMPLE, COPENHAGEN – @CCP_Sport
Hibs boss Neil Lennon is adamant the better team lost after seeing his side exit the Europa League in heartbreaking fashion.
The capital club turned in a fine display against Brondby and emerged as 1-0 winners on the night, with David Gray’s close-range finish cancelling out the one-goal deficit from their defeat at Easter Road.
However, Brondby were ultimately ice-cold from 12 yards and progressed 5-3 on penalties after John McGinn saw his effort saved by Frederik Ronnow.
Consequently, Lennon was left to rue a mistake by Otso Virtanen and a wrongly-disallowed goal in Leith as the turning point of a tie which was on a knife-edge until the very end.
He said: “I am proud of them and pleased, because they did exactly what we set out to do, which was to win. And without poor officials in the first tie we would have been through.
“Any luck in this tie went against us. However cannot speak highly enough of the team – outstanding. To come away from home and to lose by a penalty shoot out is hard to take. But we need to start from here.
“It is fantastic start to take Brondby all the way at such an early stage. We feel we were the better team and, but for a horrendous goalkeeper error and scoring perfectly good goal that wasn’t allowed, we would be going to Berlin.
“I thought we had the measure of Brondby after the first game. To come here away from home against a team who are flying – 15 goals in four games – and restrict them to very little is a terrific effort.”
Lennon, meanwhile, insists no fingers will be pointed at the otherwise excellent McGinn, who was the only man of the eight penalty takers to fail from the spot.
He continued: “That is by-the-by. They could easily have missed one or two themselves, it was just bad luck.
“I don’t think you can talk about ‘villains’ after a night like that and a performance like that. We were absolutely brilliant and did the fans here proud.”
Lennon also reserved special praise for debutant goalkeeper Ross Laidlaw, who replaced Virtanen between the sticks.
He added: “Ross was my call and, in hindsight, the right call. He had a superb game, dealt with whatever he had to do dealt with everything very well and was unlucky not to save one or two of the penalties, one of them went in off the post.”