KRISTOFFER AJER took the spotlight against RB Salzburg at Parkhead on Thursday night – and it took his fellow-Norwegians to bail him out.
With Celtic trailing 2-0 and desperately trying to claw their way back into the Europa League Group B encounter in the fading moments, the skyscraper central defender somehow contrived to miss a glorious opportunity only TWO yards from goal.
Ajer scooped a header from Filip Benkovic over the crossbar when it looked as though he couldn’t fail.
However, he was spared embarrassment when Rosenborg netted a late goal against RB Leipzig to get a 1-1 draw in Germany and hand the Hoops a passport into tomorrow’s Europa League last-32 draw.
KRIS-MISS…Ajer scoops the ball over the RB Salzburg bar.
Ajer, who came on for the injured Mikael Lustig in the first-half, admitted: “I’m not sure how I missed that chance – it was a great opportunity to score.
“I should have scored that and when I watched it back, it seemed harder to miss than score.
“I’m not sure if the ball was going in anyway, but there are not many people who would leave a chance like that.
“Luckily it didn’t matter in the end as we still qualified.”
The man who saved Ajer’s blushes was Tore Reginiussen who headed in the leveller in the 86th minute in the Red Bull Arena before Olivier Ntcham hit the Hoops’ consolation in stoppage time following a rebound from his penalty-kick miss.
The 20-year-old versatile star, who was making his comeback following his horrific fractured eye-socket injury in the goalless stalemate against Livingston last month, said: “It came up on the big screen that Rosenborg had scored, so that was fantastic to see.
“We have to thank the Norwegians for getting that draw. I know a few of their players from the national team and others I’ve played with before so I’ll be thanking them.
“I know Tore, the goalscorer, as we’ve been in squads for the national team several times.
“He’s a fantastic guy and a really good goalscorer, so it wasn’t unusual for him to score such a big goal.”
HIGH AND MIGHTY…Kristoffer Ajer clears from an Austrian opponent.
Ajer added: “The main objective was to go through from the group, so we are happy we have done that, but when you lose a game there are always mixed emotions.
“We want to perform better than we did against Salzburg.
“When you play for Celtic, you always want to be involved at the highest level possible.
“When we came in to the Europa League and saw the group we understood it would be really tough.
“We’ve had a lot of hard games to face, so to make it through in the end, we have to be really happy about that.”