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End of Celtic's Champions League dream may lead Neil Lennon to question future

That's that then. Celtic's latest Champions League adventure is over. Crushed amid comical defending and a lack of composure in front of goal.

Christmas came early for the Italians, struggling in Serie A.

The Celtic players should have been wearing big red and white cloaks rather than green and white hoops at Parkhead.

Santa Claus himself won't be more generous to Mario Balotelli and his pals on December 25!

On a night when Neil Lennon's men needed to be organised, disciplined and inspired to have a chance of staying in the competition, they failed miserably in attack and defensively were a shambles leading to strikes for Kaka, Cristian Zapata and mad Mario.

Perhaps the 3-0 scoreline wasn't a fair reflection of the match overall, but it certainly told the tale of what went on in the two penalty boxes.

At the San Siro, Lennon's players dominated for long periods and it was a similar story in Glasgow as the Bhoys missed chances and then conceded.

Kaka, on occasion reminding us what a class player he is, in the first-half and Zapata in the second had the freedom of Glasgow to net from close range following corners, before Balotelli made Virgil van Dijk pay for poor positioning on the hour mark.

Even the vociferous Celtic fans found it hard to raise themselves after that.

With Ajax surprisingly beating Barcelona in Amsterdam, it meant that not only did the Hoops exit the Champions League, they were knocked out of Europe altogether.

Guaranteed to finish bottom of the group, there will be no Europa League consolation.

What's left is another cruise to the Scottish Premiership crown and the defence of the Scottish Cup. Hardly riveting, unless they meet Rangers in the latter.

Lennon's men face Barcelona in the Champions League next month, but wonderful and all that it is to play at the Nou Camp, the trip is now little more than fulfilling a fixture.

It's going to be difficult for Lennon to lift his players and I wonder how testing it will be for the Lurgan man to lift himself.

Last season, the Bhoys made it through to the knockout phase and while the group stage draw combined with the summer sales of Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper made repeating the feat a tough task, Lennon still harboured hopes of qualifying for the last 16 again.

The manner of Celtic's defeat last night will hit him hard.

In the next few months, managers in the Premier League will be sacked. The favourites to be looking for a new boss are Fulham, West Ham and Norwich.

It is a distinct possibility that one will come calling for Lennon, who is well respected in England

Celtic are a much bigger club than most, including those three mentioned, and of course the Hoops are probably assured titles and a shot at the Champions League for the next five seasons until Rangers are strong enough to challenge once more, but the Premier League is a huge draw for any budding manager.

In the not too distant future, Lennon may have a major decision to make.

Belfast Telegraph


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