Neil Lennon hailed the character of his side after they fought back from two goals down to earn a last-gasp victory over Greek side Asteras Tripolis at Easter Road last night.
The Hibs manager, who has been handed an extra one-match touchline ban for an alleged gesture in the tie against Runavik and so will be in the stand for the second leg, acknowledged that his men should have enjoyed a more comfortable triumph but insisted that there is still everything to play for.
“I’m really proud of the team,” he said. “They showed tremendous character because they could have given up the ghost but we could have won by more. We missed some easy chances and I’m bitterly disappointed in the manner we conceded, but this team has a little bit about them and the tie is still in the balance.”
Goals by Efe Ambrose, David Gray and Florian Kamberi overhauled the 2-0 goal lead from Georgios Kyriakopoulos’ first half-brace.
“I would have taken 2-2 but the third goal gives us a psychological lift. But I’m taking nothing for granted – I know it’s tough away from home in Europe.”
Lennon is disappointed that he will have to observe the critical return leg from the stand, though.
“It’s ridiculous, absolutely scandalous given the circumstances. They said I made a substitute signal but we were only five goals up at the time, it had no bearing on the tie whatsoever and I was actually signalling to the guy sitting next to me in the stand.
“I can’t get my head around it at all. I think it’s very, very harsh to say the least. I’ve also been fined €5,000, it’s unbelievable.
“I’m now in the stand for a very important game and it’s impossible to coach from the directors box. It’s over officious.
“The Uefa delegate reported me. He came over and said ‘You can’t make signals, coach’. I told him him I was making it to the guy next to me. “I didn’t think I’d get a ban but I have. It’s incredibly harsh. It’s the longest ban ever – the Brondby game was two years ago!”
But he remains confident that his players can deliver the result without his touchline presence.
“We are short of quality from where we were at the end of last season and we know that. The Maclarens, the Barkers, the Allans of this world – we haven’t been able to replace them just yet. But I’m really proud of the core of the squad, the starting 11 and the guys who came on and made a contribution. To score three goals at home against a very good side is really pleasing and it could’ve been more.”