Sunday 17 December 2017

I can manage at elite level – Lennon

Roddy Forsyth

If there was a powerful sense of inevitability about the outcome once Juventus were gifted the lead in Glasgow, Neil Lennon and his staff can measure significant progress in the Champions League. Celtic played a dozen games, won seven, drew one and lost four.

Three of their victories were on the road, where they had faltered so frequently in previous years and, by taking Barcelona to the last kick of the ball in the Nou Camp and winning in Glasgow, they created vivid memories that will be cherished for decades by the Celtic faithful.

As for the manager, he was not inclined to false modesty when invited to review the campaign as the squad flew home from Turin yesterday. Asked what he had learned from the events of the last eight months, Lennon replied: "One, I can manage at this level. Two, that we can compete very well at this level. The football we have played at times has been of a very high order.

"We just came up a bit short in Turin in some areas and there's no shame in that.

"I don't think we were really ever uncomfortable in the game.

"(Gianluigi) Buffon made a good save and when Georgios Samaras flashed one across the goal, you're just waiting for Gary Hooper to tap it in and we'd have been back in the game.

"If (Efe) Ambrose could head it then both ties would have been different. I mean, he missed another one on Wednesday from four yards out. That would have made the game 1-1. I didn't expect to win the tie, but at 1-1 you think, 'can we go and win the game now?"

When it was suggested that Ambrose owed him, Lennon retorted: "He owes me a fine as well. He's going to be a few quid out of pocket by the end of the week."

The same cannot be said of Celtic, whose European run has not only insulated them from the impact of Rangers' absence from the SPL – and two guaranteed capacity home crowds – but provided insurance against financial pain for next season.

That said, Champions League group stage football – which sustained interest in what would otherwise have been a drab domestic context – is far from a given next time around, because of the need to negotiate three qualifying rounds, starting in early July. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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