DELIGHTED Dan Petrescu piled the misery on Neil Lennon and his hapless Hoops when he insisted: “Celtic has problems.”
The former Romanian World Cup international had just masterminded Cluj’s remarkable 4-3 triumph to dynamite the Scots’ Champions League dream for another season.
Parkhead was silent as Lennon and his players headed for the exit of Europe’s elite tournament after a blizzard of errors saw them throw away the advantage of a first-leg draw away from home to capitulate in catastrophic circumstances in the east end of Glasgow in front of their own fans.
At kick-off, Celtic were already through if it remained goalless following James Forrest’s leveller in Romania. They were 3-2 ahead on aggregate when Odsonne Edouard scored. They were leading 4-3 overall when Ryan Christie netted.
And yet they still managed to lose to a Cluj team not much better than last year’s conquerors AEK Athens who got through to the group stages and lost all six of their ties.
Lennon left £10million of new talent in the shape of Christian Jullien and Boli Bolingoli on the subs’ bench and there were dire consequences for fielding an unsettled formation with Callum McGregor at left-back.
Ex-Chelsea and Sheffield Wednesday full-back Petrescu took full advantage to guide his side into the play-off double-header against Slavia Prague.
Speaking to the Daily Record, he admitted: “I’m very tired. It was a very nice game of football, but not for the coaches. And not for Celtic fans.
“All my players need congratulations. I told them they needed to play the game of their lives. I said they needed a miracle to win through and I meant it.
“It’s a pity a team like Celtic won’t be in the group stages of the Champions League – it’s not fair on them.
“When they conceded four goals at home they won’t be happy. The four goals shows we’re good, but also that Celtic has problems.
“It is just unbelievable for us to win through. It’s one of the best results of my career, for sure.”
Celtic have now dropped into the Europa League where they will faces the winners of Moldova’s Sheriff and Sweden’s AIK with the latter holding a 2-1 advantage from last week’s first game.