Thursday 18 January 2018

Lennon hopes for red-tape reprieve after defeat

Sion 3Celtic 1
(Sion win 3-1 on aggregate)

Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon revealed Celtic will still be looking to take their place in the Europa League group stages on a technicality despite losing to Sion in their play-off second-leg clash at the Stade de Tourbillon last night

It was a dire night for the Hoops which began badly when Daniel Majstorovic brought down Guilherme Afonso inside the box with less than a minute on the clock.

After the big stopper had walked, Pascal Feindouno, who had a trial at Celtic but was too pricey for the Parkhead club, scored from the spot before adding a second after the break.

Celtic defender Charlie Mulgrew and Giovanni Sio swapped goals to see the Swiss side ultimately go through on a 3-1 aggregate.

However, Celtic are looking for a red tape reprieve. Sion have five players in their squad -- Feindouno, Mario Mutsch and Gabri, Jose Goncalves and Billy Ketkeophomphone -- who are, in the eyes of FIFA, ineligible to play in the competition.

Sion's European squad, though, was approved by the Swiss FA who, along with the club, have reportedly been warned by UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino about possible sanctions although the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who will rule on the issue, will not pass their verdict next week.

The Celtic boss, however, expects a positive outcome.

"We have sent in letters last week and handed one to the delegate," he said. "There is hearing on Tuesday and we will know the outcome after that. If clubs are breaking the rules then every club should break the rule then"

Asked if he would be comfortable about replacing Sion he replied: "Yes."

In his first European foray as permanent boss last season the Irishman's side lost to Braga and FC Utrecht in the respective Champions League and Europa League qualifiers but he denied this latest failure was humiliating.

He said: "Humiliating? It's a such a strong word. I don't think it is a humiliation."

"We have to be realistic about things, we are not where we were four or five years ago in Europe."

"I would say to the fans to stick the team and no one is as disappointed as myself with the result."

Elsewhere, Ireland's Glenn Whelan was on target as Stoke City turned on the style in the Europa League last night in a thumping 4-1 victory over FC Thun at the Britannia Stadium to progress 5-1 on aggregate over the Swiss side.

Irish Independent

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