THE first half of last week’s UEFA Europa League group-stage encounter with Lille at the Stade Pierre Mauroy unfolded at break-neck speed. Celtic were made to defend in the early stages. Olivier Ntcham was booked. Scott Bain made a string of fine saves. Mohamed Elyounoussi put the Hoops ahead. Then he scored another. And then Lille were awarded a penalty four minutes before half-time.
Not only had the Hoops’ stopper returned to Neil Lennon’s starting XI during a thrilling 3-3 draw with Aberdeen at Pittodrie four days prior, he’d been on the receiving end of two spot-kicks – both of which were netted by the Dons’ Lewis Fergusson.
The pressure was on at the Stade Pierre Mauroy, but, having stood firm against the advances of Boubakary Soumaré and Yusuf Yazici in the opening quarter of an hour, the 28-year-old looked increasingly confident as the half wore on. Off the back of a hat-trick one week earlier, Turkish forward Yazici looked all but certain to take the kick, and Bain had done his homework.
Yazici picked up the ball, walked towards the spot, and then handed the ball to 20-year-old striker Jonathan David, signed from Gent in the summer and still chasing his first goal on French soil.
“We had a plan for each player, and the player who we thought was supposed to take the penalty – Yusuf Yazici – ended up handing the ball to the boy who hit it, Jonathan David,” said Bain in an exclusive interview with the Celtic View. “We expected Yazici to be their main penalty taker, but he instead gave it to David. In the moment, I forgot which way he was going, so I tried to wait as long as possible and then go last minute. Luckily, I was able to get my foot up and make the save. Especially when you think someone might do down the middle, it’s difficult not to simply stand there and be brave. You can sometimes look foolish if you pick a side and the player ends up going straight down the middle. But I think you’ve always got to go with the plan or go with your gut, and live and die by that.”
WOODSY’S AN UNSUNG HERO
LIKE Scott Brown and James Forrest, Celtic’s goalkeeping coach Stevie Woods has played a crucial role in all of Celtic’s nine-in-a-row run – and Scott Bain has nothing but praise for one of the club’s ‘unsung heroes’.
He said: “Woodsy does a great job with the goalkeepers at Celtic, and that’s why he’s the goalkeeping coach at the Scotland national team as well. He’s rated highly, not just amongst the Celtic players and staff, but also across the country.
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