A second half header from Joe Ledley secured a deserved point for Celtic in their Europa League game against Rennes at the Route de Lorient tonight.
On 30 minutes, a long punt from Rennes keeper Benoit Costil saw Cha Du-ri pass back to keeper Fraser Forster, but there was once again miscommunication at the back and the South Korean defender found his pass back slip past the Celtic keeper and into the back of the net.
With the game looking like another away defeat for Celtic, Joe Ledley popped up in the 70th minute to flick a Mulgrew free kick over Costil to pull Lennon’s side level and secure a point, however the Parkhead side remain bottom of Group I on goal difference.
Celtic started the game confidently with midfielder Ki having an early shot from long-range saved by Costil. The South Korean then went down in the box, following a challenge by Vincent Pajot, however referee Robert Malek waved play on.
Rennes began to get a grip of the game and skipper Kader Mangane sent a lopping header just wide of the back post on 12 minutes, before Youssouf Hadji saw his shot headed over by Victor Wanyama for a corner.
The first real chance for Celtic felt to Anthony Stokes just before the half hour mark. Charlie Mulgrew sent through a long pass to the Irish striker who turned Mangane, but he could not beat the keeper who turned Stokes’ shot over the bar for a corner.
Despite Celtic gaining a boost from that chance, they shot themselves in the foot on the half hour mark when Cha Du-Ri directed his pass back past Forster to give Rennes the lead in comical fashion.
Moments later Rennes could have extended their lead, but Hadji’s header from close range went over the bar.
Into the second half and Rennes threatened once more. Tettey burst into the Celtic box to get on the end of a pass from Boukari, but Dutch defender Glenn Loovens managed to get back and pass to Forster who cleared the danger.
Just over five minutes later Forster made a brilliant point blank save to deny Chris Mavinga.
Lone striker Anthony Stokes was proving a thorn in the side of Rennes from time to time and he saw a shot on 63 minutes saved by Costil, when the Irishman fired his shot straight at the keeper.
That chance fired Celtic up and Cha Du-Ri saw his shot parried by Costil into the path of Ki, but the South Korean could only fire his shot over the bar from the edge of the box.
On 70 minutes Celtic got a deserved equaliser when midfielder rose highest in the box to head a Mulgrew free kick over Costil in the Rennes goal, much to the delight of the away support.
Mulgrew then fired a free kick from 30 yards just wide of the Rennes post, after Stokes was fouled by Mangane and 11 minutes from time, Forster made another superb point blank save from Hadji’s overhead kick.
Despite both sides chasing a winner, neither side could manage to find the winner with Forster making yet another superb save to deny Pitroipa in the dying seconds of the game.
After the match Neil Lennon told ESPN: “I thought we deserved to win it. It would have been a real shame having played so well to lose the game to the goal we conceded, but credit to the players.
“In the second half we weathered a bit of a storm and Fraser Forster showed character with some tremendous saves but we created some really good chances and I felt on the balance of play we should have won the game.
“To come here and do that is testament to the team after the weekend, the quality they showed, I’m very proud of them tonight.”
On Ledley, Lennon said: “He is a terrific player and no matter where we ask him to play he does a great job for the team and since he has got in he has gradually got better and better. He was marvellous tonight up against really top-class players, to get the goal was a bonus but his overall display was fantastic.
“We now have three home games to come, so it’s all to play for.”
In the other group game Udinese beat Atletico Madrid 2-0. Check out Spanishfootball.info for the report on that game later.
RENNES: Costil; Jebbour, Mangane, Kana-Biyik, Mavinga (Theophile-Catherine 76); Tettey; Pajot, Brahimi (Pitroipa 58), Feret; Boukari (Kembo-Ekoko 58), Hadji
Subs not used: Diallo, Dalmat, Montano, Doumbia
CELTIC: Forster; Matthews, Loovens, Mulgrew, Ledley; Kayal, Wanyama; Cha, Ki (Bangura 89), Forrest; Stokes
Subs not used: Zaluska, Majstorovic, Wilson, McCourt, George, McGregor
Referee: Robert Malek (Poland)