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McGeady injury revives rumour of exit

Aiden McGeady missed Celtic's 3-0 Champions League defeat by Sporting Braga last night due to a back injury, according to boss Neil Lennon.

When the Celtic team was announced, McGeady's omission immediately confirmed speculation that the midfielder had played his last game for the club.

Previewing his team selection, Lennon had claimed that 'Unless I'm told differently, Aiden is playing', hinting that only the Parkhead money men could keep the club's prize asset out of action.

After watching his side's hopes of reaching the group stage of the Champions League virtually ended, Lennon explained: "Aiden was complaining of a recurring back injury last night.

"I spoke to the medical team and, with the lack of training he's had, we thought it best not to risk him. Hopefully we'll have him for the second leg."

Reports that Celtic chief Peter Lawwell is deep in discussions with his Spartak Moscow counterpart, Evgeniy Smolencev, over a £10m deal to take the midfielder to Russia will add doubt to the extent of McGeady's injury.

Being cup-tied from Europe could knock £2m off McGeady's value and reduce interest in the player.

But in Braga, Lennon's new look side looking reasonably comfortable until the loss of two goals in the final 14 minutes.

Lennon gave debuts to Cha Du Ri, Charlie Mulgrew, Efrain Juarez and Joe Ledley while also picking Joos Hooiveld, Shaun Maloney and Ki Sung Yeung for the first time in his reign.

Daryl Murphy made his debut as a replacement for Maloney in the 70th minute but was given little service as he joined Georgios Samaras in attack.

It all started to go wrong for Celtic in the 23rd minute when the assistant referee harshly judged Ki to have handled a cross in the penalty box.


"The penalty was ball to hand not hand to ball, but there were some very strange decisions against us," Lennon claimed. "Charlie Mulgrew was booked for time wasting after four minutes and the ref didn't even warn him. It was an incredible decision. He didn't book Braga players until the final 10 minutes.

"I'm not pleased with the ref at all. You can't talk to officials these days. I tried to speak to him at half-time, but he told me to walk up the tunnel."

Braga seemed content to sit on their one-goal lead as they chased qualification for the Champions League for the first time ever.

There was no obvious threat from the Portuguese side but in the 76th minute Uwe Echiejile converted a corner from eight yards before Nascimento Matheus' fired home a 30-yard free kick in the final minute.

Lennon admitted: "We lost the game with three set-pieces, which was very disappointing. I thought we were comfortable. We went a goal down to a very controversial decision, and the last two goals were very disappointing. Some people may think the tie is over, but we don't."

After a brief return to Glasgow, Celtic face Lyon and Arsenal in London at the Emirates Cup over the weekend with the extent of McGeady's injury likely to be the main issue.

Lennon is also expected to use the trip to London to speak to David James in a bid to replace Artur Boruc in goal.