WHEN the blame game was beginning shortly after Copenhagen’s second goal fizzed between Fraser Forster’s legs and into the net at Celtic Park on Thursday evening, there was no shortage of culpability to be shared around among the home players for their Europa League exit.

From the stands, there seemed to be one man wearing the Hoops who shouldered more blame than most, with Jozo Simunovic’s gifting of the pivotal Copenhagen opener the nadir of a personal performance from the Croat that had lurched uncharacteristically between baffling inertia and bungling ineptitude all evening.

After the game though, Celtic manager Neil Lennon refused to point the finger at this centre-half. It was he, after all, who had rejigged the defence to accommodate Simunovic at the heart of it, so if there was responsibility to bear for the hugely disappointing result, the Celtic team and staff would bear it together.

It was in that spirit that Mohamed Elyounoussi fronted up to take the slings and arrows, saying that if anyone should be saying sorry for the crushing European exit, then it should be him. The winger passed up a glorious first-half opportunity on the night when he blazed the ball over the bar from close range, a moment you sense he will be replaying in his head for quite some time to come.

“[Jozo] has nothing to apologise for,” said Elyounoussi. “We win as a team and we lose as a team.

“I should have scored right in front of goal, so I should say sorry. He has nothing to be sorry for.

“I’m sure he will think about it a little bit, but he will get rid of it and focus on the next one.

“It gave them a boost when they scored, but we should have kept our composure and scored more than just one. It shouldn’t really have mattered when they scored that goal.

“We are disappointed for the fans and everyone who loves this club that we could not provide the win that everyone wanted. It would have been our night if we had scored more than one goal and we should have done.

“I thought we dominated, and we created chances which we should have taken – I should have scored, definitely. We were so close, but it wasn’t enough. They defended very well, they were organised, and they hurt us with their counter-attacks.”

Copenhagen manager Stale Solbakken had predicted before the game that Celtic may be unsure how to approach the task at hand, given that a goalless draw would have sent them through. That seemed to be borne out from the sidelines, but on the park, Elyounoussi says the intention was always to go for the jugular.

“We still wanted to attack and be on the front foot and going for the goal,” he said.

“We knew they had to score the first goal, but we wanted to go for the win for our fans, so we kept attacking and attacking.

“We were just unlucky in front of goal. It didn’t quite work out in the last third with the last shot or pass.

“I think the first half was good, we started the second half ok, but when they got the goal it gave them a boost.

“We should have had more composure after they scored, because I think we are the better team.

“If we had kept our composure as we did in the first half and kept trying to find the gaps, we would have created more chances.”

The Copenhagen game was the first that Elyounoussi had started since the Betfred Cup final win over Rangers back in early December, with the Norwegian struggling to overcome a troublesome foot injury.

The disappointment of the night on both a collective and personal level has only redoubled his determination to get back to his best as soon as possible.

“I want to make an impact,” he said. “Everyone wants to play.

“I was thrown into it against Copenhagen and did ok, especially in the first half. We had chances and I should have scored, so I’m very disappointed with that.

“I always want to play and help the team win games, so I’m disappointed I couldn’t help the team on Thursday.

“I should have taken more responsibility, especially in front of goal, but that gives me even more motivation for the games coming up.

“That makes me hungrier than ever.”

And in turn, Elyounoussi believes the Celtic team will be more determined than ever to make amends to their supporters on the domestic front, starting with the crucial Scottish Cup quarter-final tie against St Johnstone tomorrow afternoon.

“Now all we can do is focus on the league and the Scottish Cup,” he said. “Obviously, we wanted to go further in Europe, and we had a good opportunity, but we didn’t take it.

“We felt that frustration on Thursday night, but we have to let it go now and prepare for the quarter-final on Sunday. Winning the treble would make up for this defeat.

“Hopefully, we will take our frustration out on St Johnstone and go on to win the other two trophies. We’re hungrier than ever now and we will use the defeat to Copenhagen as motivation for the rest of this season so that we can give something back to the fans.”