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Celtic boss Lennon backs under-fire Kayal

By Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon claims it is “ridiculous” for anyone to suggest that Beram Kayal ducked out of his duties to hand Atletico Madrid their Europa League winner against Celtic at Parkhead.

The Hoops' stand-in skipper appeared to duck to avoid Arda Turan's 25-yard drive which beat Fraser Forster for the only goal of the game and the incident dominated most of the reporting of the penultimate Group I fixture.

The defeat, on Wednesday, means Celtic need to beat Italian side Udinese in their final game in a fortnight to qualify.

Lennon, whose side resume Clydesdale Bank Premier League duty on Sunday when they take on Dundee United at Tannadice, put up a stout defence of the Israel midfielder.

“I think he just misjudged the flight (of the ball),” said Lennon.

“Beram doesn't duck out of anything so to accuse him of that is ridiculous.

“He is one of the bravest players I've seen for quite a while and he puts his body on the line for the club and the team more often than not.”

Kayal's part in the goal came on the day he was widely quoted as saying that Celtic had the best players and played the best football in Scotland.

The comments were assumed to be a swipe at Old Firm rivals Rangers but Lennon played them down and also played down the suggestion that the headlines will be pinned up on the Ibrox dressing room to be used as a motivational tool.

“Well, they might, they might not, I don't know,” he said. “We have had stuff said about us in the past.

“Whether they are genuine comments or misconstrued or not, I don't know but I am not going to berate Beram for doing an interview and for people to then put their own slant on it.

“What he meant was he believes we have good players and a good team but we have to go out and prove that.

“I'm quite comfortable with Beram. I don't think he is that sort of lad to come out and boast about things or taunt people or anything like that — he is a well-grounded individual.

“I think some people are putting a little salt and vinegar on the story,” added Lennon.

l St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas has been handed a one-match touchline ban after being reported for misconduct during his first match in charge, against Rangers.

The former Northern Ireland midfielder has accepted the one-match suspension from the Scottish Football Association, which he will serve tomorrow when his team face Hearts.

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