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Full Celtic Media Conference - Team Selection Wasn't The Issue
Neil Lennon has accepted the disappointment over his side's defeat in Champions League qualifying but defended himself against some of the criticism aimed at the club.

Neil Lennon has accepted the disappointment over his side's defeat in Champions League qualifying but defended himself against some of the criticism aimed at the club.

The Scottish champions were rocked by a 4-3 defeat that sent them into the Europa League play-offs instead of vying for a place in the elite competition. The loss prompted criticism from fans of his team selection and the club's transfer strategy amongst other issues.

The Celtic manager admitted the defeat came as a blow but asked for some perspective on what he felt was a one-off result.

"It's something I've experienced before as a manager and a player," he said.

"We're bitterly disappointed that we've missed out on it.

"We're bullish about things, we still have a lot to play for. We were good enough, the second half performance was outstanding, we started the season so well.

"It's a set-back but we're galvanised and reunited and we'll go again."

Having failed to reach the group stages of the Champions League for a second successive year, some critics have said that the club is no longer of that stature but Lennon took issue with that, pointing out the club's successes.

"I disagree," he said.

"The team has won the treble treble.

"It's been a couple of years now since we qualified for the Champions League but it's a very difficult thing to do. I say the gravitas of the club is still very much geared towards to Champions League.

"We are disappointed because we had the tie in our hands twice. That's a regret and it's one that we let go from an opportunity of strength."

Callum McGregor's selection at left back raised questions when the teams were announced on Tuesday, with the Scotland international midfielder played out of position and summer signing Boli Bolingoli dropped.

Lennon said he didn't think that particular decision cost the team and said that it was a lacklustre performance across the side that had led to defeat.

"I understand that people talk about the team selection but I don't think that had any bearing on the game," he said.

"As a collective we didn't well in the first half but in the second half we were a totally different team.

"We were rampant at 2-1 and just gave Cluj oxygen in the game.

"It's not ideal, obviously. We know what a player he is but a midfield of Ntcham, Brown and Christie is very, very strong. Callum set up the first goal, he also had a shot and played particularly well.

"I don't think he was the issue, our issue was collective and conceding the second and third goals, which were probably of our own doing."

Celtic now face Dunfermline in the League Cup before preparing to face AIK for a place in the Europa League play-off.

While debate rages on about the Champions League defeat, he called for perspective.

"I understand the environment and hysteria," he said.

"It's just a modern day phenomenon and you have to take a step back and detach yourself from it.

"When we win 7-0 and 5-2 I'm not thinking we're the next big thing and when we lose I'm not too low about it. There has to be a sense of perspective on every game.

"Whether people think it's hot air, I'm not big on stats, but possession-wise and I always look at attempts on goal and we were in the twenties on that against the Romanian champions."

The manager also ruled out signing a goalkeeper after Scott Bain sustained a thumb injury, saying he had an able deputy in Craig Gordon and he was hopeful Bain would train next week and not need surgery.

Posted by voc1967 on Friday 16 August 2019 - 15:00:51 | Comments (1)  |  printer friendly
  • Bart67 @ 16 Aug 2019 : 15:06
    The Team Selection was a very big part of it .
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