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Watch: Fraser Forster's 'incredible' performance that thwarted Rangers in League Cup final

 

Celtic manager Neil Lennon knew he had goalkeeper Fraser Forster to thank for his side's League Cup final victory.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon knew he had goalkeeper Fraser Forster to thank for his side's League Cup final victory.
Perfect 10: Celtic captain Scott Brown leads the celebrations
Winner: Celtic manager Neil Lennon hails victory
Ryan Jack (left) is consoled by Jermaine Defoe

By Andy Newport

Celtic manager Neil Lennon saluted "world-class" goalkeeper Fraser Forster after seeing his "unbelievable" squad chalk up a perfect 10 straight trophy wins with their Betfred Scottish League Cup triumph yesterday.

Rangers were out to end the Hoops' reign of domestic dominance but Steven Gerrard's team had their hearts broken by Forster at Hampden Park.

The Englishman made a string of crucial saves as Lennon's team found themselves trudging through puddles during a rain-lashed first half.

The on-loan Southampton goalkeeper then pulled off a match-winning penalty save from Alfredo Morelos after Christopher Jullien had stroked the treble Treble winners ahead in the 59th minute.

Celtic also found themselves down to 10 men after they conceded that spot-kick, with teenager Jeremie Frimpong dismissed for pulling back Morelos.

But Celtic once again found a way to win, leaving their manager purring.

The Ulsterman — who follows Billy McNeill to become only the second man to have won all three Scottish prizes as both a player and a manager — said: “I’m really proud. We had to dig in today. We didn’t play well in the first-half. We had to rely on Fraser at times to make some world-class saves. But the character, pride and resilience they showed was outstanding.

“I’ve not seen a goalkeeping performance or goalkeeper like Fraser for a long time. In his first spell here, he did some incredible things and now he’s doing it again in his second.

“We’re grateful to have him. He’s buzzing and thrilled to be here. We needed him.

“The League Cup has been a monkey on my back. It owed me one. It’s just nice to tick that box.

“I don’t know what you would compare (10 trophies in a row) with but it’s incredible. It’s easy to give it up, to think ‘oh it’s not our day today and that’s the end of it’ but they just won’t. It’s amazing. They are an incredible group of players.”

Celtic had an injury concern before kick-off, with Celtic talisman Odsonne Edouard only fit enough for a seat on the bench.

But Edouard made a huge contribution within seconds of his entrance as he won the free-kick which led to Jullien’s goal.

“It is hugely difficult to make the decision to leave him on the bench with the quality of player that he is,” said Lennon. “But you don’t want to start him with him not feeling right.

“When Odsonne came on you saw the whole team perk up, the spark. His first action is to win the free-kick for the goal. At times he sprinkled that little bit of stardust that we had been missing for the first hour.”

Gerrard, meanwhile, faces the tough task of lifting his players.

He said: “I thought we were outstanding in terms of our performance. Everything we asked of the players today, in terms of how we approach it and what we wanted from them to a man I can’t be much prouder of them.

“But finals are normally decided on big moments and the big moments haven’t gone in our favour today.

“We conceded from a set-piece which we shouldn’t have given away and had to defend it better. There were three Celtic players standing in offside positions but unfortunately we play in a country where there is no VAR.

“The penalty’s a big moment. If you execute there and then, it puts you in a much stronger position. Unfortunately we haven’t taken our chance in that big moment.

“Alfredo was the nominated penalty taker. It was nothing to do with James passing the buck or anything like that. I decided we needed to change that up.

“We’ve got a huge game on Thursday and no better game to bounce back. I’ll stay with these players. On the evidence of what I’ve seen today, performance-wise, I’m staying right behind them.

“We might have to suffer a little bit, of course. We have to soak it up, remember it and be ready to go and give ourselves another opportunity and that type of performance will get us where we want to get to.

“I’ve got a big job to pick them all up because it’s a tough one. It’s raw right now but this is football at the top. We’ll suffer and then we’ll bounce back.”

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