Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Cliftonville are playing for pride at Parkhead

Celtic manager Neil Lennon applauds the fans after defeating Cliftonville during the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Second Round Qualifying at Solitude, Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday July 17, 2013. See PA Story SOCCER Cliftonville. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon applauds the fans after defeating Cliftonville during the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Second Round Qualifying at Solitude, Belfast.
Cliftonville and Celtic during Wednesday nights Champions League, 2nd qualifying round, 1st leg game at Solitude.
Cliftonville's Ryan Catney with Celtic's Berman Kayal during Wednesday nights Champions League, 2nd qualifying round, 1st leg game at Solitude.
Celtic's Georgios Samaras celebrates scoring against Cliftonville during Wednesday nights Champions League, 2nd qualifying round, 1st leg game at Solitude.
Cliftonville v Celtic, Champions League 2nd Qual, 1st Leg game at Solitude, Belfast. Cliftonville's Joe Gormley with Celtic's Scott Brown
Cliftonville v Celtic, Champions League 2nd Qual, 1st Leg game at Solitude, Belfast. Celtic's Mikael Lustig celebrates the opening goal

Celtic boss Neil Lennon's suggestion that Cliftonville were unlucky to catch his team on a good night was an entirely accurate surmisal of Wednesday's Champions League qualifier at Solitude.

Though he was reluctant to admit as much in his pre-match press-conference, Lennon knew that, with the golden carrot of group stage football helping to break the grinding tedium of another cakewalk to the SPL title, the north Belfast outing was one of the most important matches in Celtic's season.

He was reluctant to take any risks on his team's chances of progress and paid Cliftonville the ultimate respect of naming the strongest possible starting XI at his disposal. Opposite number Tommy Breslin had hoped a few visiting players might not fancy the challenge of a battle against his part-timers but, unfortunately for him, there was no ‘big time Charlie' attitude within the Celtic contingent and all of their big names were on top of their game.

Read the full match analysis in tomorrows Sunday Life

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