Saturday 16 December 2017

Utrecht run riot to pile the pressure on Lennon

(Utrecht win 4-2 on aggregate)

JUST four years ago, Celtic were beating Manchester United to secure a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League; last night, they crumbled to a miserable defeat that denies them a place in the group phase of the Europa League.

This was a result that would embarrass a team from the Welsh Premiership. It represents a massive blow to Celtic's pride, not to mention their finances, and it leaves the club's rookie manager Neil Lennon under enormous pressure.

The Hoops went into last night's second leg with a 2-0 lead, fully expecting to advance to the lucrative group stages.

However, their advantage was quickly halved when Jos Hooiveld brought down Michael Silberbauer in the area in the 11th minute and Ricky van Wolfswinkel scored from the spot, despite Lukasz Zaluska getting a hand to the effort.

The tie was level on aggregate seven minutes later when Zaluska's fouled Dries Mertens. This time, Van Wolfswinkel slotted his penalty low into the corner.

Even at 2-0 down on the night, Celtic knew that an away goal would put them in control, but the visitors were dealt a massive blow when Utrecht struck again a minute after the restart.

Nana Asare was allowed to embark upon a surging run before picking out Edouard Duplan; he played the ball into the path of Van Wolfswinkel who rifled it high into the top corner to claim his hat-trick.

The Celtic defence were having a torrid time against their rampant hosts and on 62 minutes, Utrecht substitute Barry Maguire lashed a long-range thunderbolt into the net.

That wrapped up the scoring and continued Celtic's dismal away record in Europe -- they have just one win in 28 games on the road now.

Irish Independent

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