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Lennon tries to lift Celtic gloom after Scottish misery

By Ronnie Esplin

Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes there has been a “total overreaction” to another night of woe for Scottish clubs in Europe.

The Old Firm's European aspirations are in the balance and Hearts are almost certainly out after the three sides' respective Europa League play-off first-leg ties on Thursday night.

Hearts crashed 5-0 at home to Tottenham, Celtic failed to break the deadlock against Swiss side Sion at Parkhead and Rangers surrendered the lead to go down 2-1 to Maribor in Slovenia.

However, ahead of tomorrow's Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with St Johnstone at Parkhead, the Celtic boss asked for context and perspective.

“It is a total overreaction,” he said. We didn't play as well as can but we dominated the majority of the game.

“My frustration was that the quality wasn't there in the final third but we didn't feel under pressure at any stage of the game.

“Sion came to defend and we probably could have done more, but it's not all gloom and gloom, that's for sure.

“Rangers have got an away goal which could prove priceless in the tie and with home advantage, so I would say they would still be favourites to go through.

“And Spurs are an excellent side, let's get it right.

“They spent a lot of money, they have a top manager, they beat Inter Milan and AC Milan last year and made the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

“Was it a huge surprise that they went to Tynecastle and won?

“Maybe the scoreline might have been (a surprise) but I expected Spurs to probably win the game.

“It is very difficult to compete financially and the game at Tynecastle showed that.

“If we score (in Switzerland) it puts us in a strong position and this team is capable of scoring,” added the Northern Irishman.

“I am delighted we kept a clean sheet because it kept us in the tie.

“So I wouldn't be over-critical of our performance. We know what was wrong.

“Hopefully we are talking in a different frame of mind this time next week.”

If Lennon's comments were aimed mostly at the media, he is well aware that the Hoops fans were also far from impressed with Celtic's performance against Sion with striker Georgios Samaras singled out for extra criticism.

The former Celtic skipper admitted he gave the Greece striker a pep-talk at Lennoxtown yesterday morning.

“I think he seems to be the whipping boy at the minute. I had a talk with him this morning and tried to keep him positive.

“He is a very important member of our squad and the fans will just have to show a little more patience with him.

“I understand the frustrations and so can he, but it is not one person's fault for a disappointing result.

“But sometimes players get singled out for whatever reason and it's his turn at the minute.

“But I think he has got the strength of character to come through that and turn it around,” added Lennon, who revealed that his bid to bring in Cameroon international Mo Idrissou is “dead in the water”.

Belfast Telegraph


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