Sport Soccer

Thursday 26 April 2018

Lennon's 'early goal' warning

Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon has warned his Celtic defence against conceding yet another early goal in Europe when they take on Italian side Udinese in their Europa League clash at Parkhead tonight.

The Hoops found themselves behind in the opening minutes in the both the away qualifier to Sion in Switzerland and their Group I opener against Atletico Madrid in Spain and were unable to recover, losing on each occasion.

The Celtic boss is aware of his side's defensive frailties which resurfaced against Inverness on Saturday when, despite a 2-0 win in the SPL, 'keeper Fraser Forster and centre-back pairing Daniel Majstorovic and Glenn Loovens came in for criticism after sloppy play.

Lennon is also aware of the dangers of going behind early to a side who are joint top of Serie A.

"It seems to be a running theme in the last few European games," he said. "We conceded early in Sion and in Madrid and you need maximum concentration in these games. It is always a concern when you are playing against a team of this quality.

"Udinese are an excellent team, very well drilled defensively and they have excellent pace on the break. So, we have worked on a few things today and, hopefully, we can keep the door shut. But it is important that we get plenty of the ball as well and work Udinese the best we can."

The Northern Irishman believes the Celtic fans could have been even more anxious than they were against Caley as defensive indecision at times threatened to cost goals and he hopes for the same level of understanding against the Serie A side, who are sure to pose more problems than the SPL bottom side.

"The fans are just desperate for the team to succeed and play well," said Lennon, who revealed striker Gary Hooper has shrugged off the ankle injury which forced him off in the second half against the Highlanders.

• Damien Duff has returned to the Fulham squad for their trip to Odense after missing Saturday's league game.

Celtic v Udinese, Live, ESPN, 5.30

Odense v Fulham, Live, ITV4, 5.30

Irish Independent

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