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Europa League: Celtic misery, but Lennon is upbeat

Athletico Madrid 2 Celtic 0: Celtic manager Neil Lennon insists his side will take plenty of positives into Sunday's Old Firm clash at Ibrox despite starting their Europa League Group I campaign with a 2-0 defeat at Atletico Madrid.

Pain game: Celtic’s Glen Loovens suffers cramp at the end of last night’s match in Madrid

The visitors were still warming to their task at the Vicente Calderon when Colombia striker Radamel Falcao met a Diego corner in the third minute to head past Fraser Forster.

Diego added the second in the 67th minute to leave the Parkhead men with one away win in Europe in 31 games.

However, the ebullient Hoops boss said: “I don't think there will be any hangover for Sunday's game. The players are relishing it and I am looking for a similar type of performance as tonight.

“I thought we played very well. It was a poor start again and we lost a goal from a set-piece but Gary (Hooper) had the chance to equalise and you have to take chances at this level.

“Hopefully the players will take something from the game for Sunday because there were positives.

“We will just rest now. I don't think we need to do any training.

“We will make sure we are well rested and will have a recovery session in the morning.

“But we want to play in these European games and there should be momentum going in to Sunday's game."

Celtic conceded a penalty and a goal in the first minute of their 3-1 play-off defeat in Sion before being reinstated by UEFA, who found the Swiss club guilty of fielding ineligible players in the two games.

Lennon bemoaned the loss of yet another early goal on their European travels. The former Northern Ireland midfielder said: “It was the manner of the goal.

“We work very hard on set-pieces and we haven't put a decent challenge in.

“I felt we could have played higher up the pitch but we did that in the second half.

“The second goal was a killer goal. It was during our best spell in the game, and after that we had to throw caution to the wind."

Atletico boss Gregorio Manzano denied Lennon's claim that the referee Peter Rasmussen had allowed some cynical tackles from Madrid to escape the proper punishment.

He said: “No, the referee let the game flow. I don't think he favoured one team or the other.

“Celtic kept things tight in the first half but as they tired in the second half we managed to make more of the game.

“At least one thing people will say is that we have started scoring after two blanks in league games.

“We didn't change anything, same tactics, but it is good that we have broken that run.”

Lennon made three changes last night, with right-back Mark Wilson replacing Adam Matthews while stopper Glenn Loovens came in for cup-tied Badr El-Kaddouri and Charlie Mulgrew moving to left-back.

Georgios Samaras took over from Anthony Stokes, who missed the trip to Spain with a thigh injury.

But although the line-up had changed, the sense of inevitability after Atletico scored hadn’t.

Belfast Telegraph


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