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UEFA call is little comfort to Lennon

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Celtic manager Neil Lennon gestures during the UEFA Champions League, Round of Sixteen match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 12, 2013. See PA story SOCCER Celtic. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Celtic manager Neil Lennon gestures during the UEFA Champions League, Round of Sixteen match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 12, 2013. See PA story SOCCER Celtic. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

Celtic manager Neil Lennon gestures during the UEFA Champions League, Round of Sixteen match at Celtic Park, Glasgow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 12, 2013. See PA story SOCCER Celtic. Photo credit should read: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

NEIL Lennon will take no consolation from the fact that UEFA have chosen not to pursue him for negative comments made against Parkhead Champions League referee Alberto Mallenco.

A visibly furious Lennon claimed that Mallenco favoured Juventus on Tuesday night when he allowed blatant fouling for every Celtic attacking set-piece.

Such goalscoring opportunities were key to Celtic's attempt to pull off another shock as 40pc of their Champions League goals this season have come from headers. That they were denied infuriated Lennon.

"I thought he was poor," he said of the referee. "I thought he was very pro-Juventus. I was disappointed with his performance to say the least. They were being fouled at every occasion. The referee is looking at it.

"They were putting their arms around players, blocking their runs, trying to pull them down. The game must be different in Spain and in Italy from what it is in Britain because you cannot do that in the penalty box because it is a penalty."

UEFA, however, do not feel there is a case for the 41-year-old to answer and that will at least offer some comfort.

Although Celtic's players were blatantly stopped from making forward runs at corners, it was also what happened on the goal-line at dead-ball kicks that stirred controversy.

 

Threatened

In the first half, Juventus's Stephan Lichtsteiner was booked for his attempt to move Gary Hooper away from the Juve goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, as was the Celtic forward.

Celtic's Kris Commons revealed that Mallenco had then threatened to penalise Juventus if it continued. "He said if they did it again we would get a penalty," said the forward. "The whole idea of the official behind the line was to look out for this kind of stuff, and if he can't identify when people are being hauled, man-handled or wrestled to the floor, I don't think he should be in a job."

But Mallenco took no further action and afterwards Lichtsteiner was unrepentant.

"It's normal," said the Juventus defender. "I think it is part of football that they play the corners and the free-kicks, and of course they score more than 40 per cent of their goals in the Champions League from free-kicks, and they look to block the goalkeeper. It was my role today to keep him away from Buffon."

Lichtsteiner was asked if he thought Celtic should have had a penalty, as Lennon had later claimed. "A penalty for what?" he said.

"It is more a foul from him than from me because if you attack the goalkeeper it is a foul."

That view was echoed by Kelvin Wilson, the Celtic centre-half.

"I think that's what Italian defenders are renowned for, making sure they get hold of you," he said.

"I'm a defender myself so I'm not going to say bad things about it. It's good defending in my eyes."


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