SEVEN of the Celtic team that collapsed 2-1 to Ferencvaros in the Champions League qualifier at Parkhead on August 26 last year are no longer at the club.
Another four of the 13 players utilised during the embarrassing and costly flop have no chance of playing against the Hungarians in the Europa League Group G encounter in Glasgow this afternoon.
Hatem Abd Elhamed, Jeremie Frimpong, Kristoffer Ajer, Scott Brown, Olivier Ntcham, Ryan Christie and Mohamed Elyounoussi have all left the Hoops while Vasilas Barkas, Christopher Jullien, Greg Taylor and James Forrest won’t figure on this occasion.
The two survivors are skipper Callum McGregor and striker Albian Ajeti, who replaced Forrest with 12 minutes to go 14 months ago.
EURO WOE…Neil Lennon can’t bear to look as Celtic topple to an early exit in their Champions League bid.
Even manager Neil Lennon parted company with the club when he departed in February with the wretched season that promised so much in the summer inexplicably falling apart.
There has been a whirlwind of change at Celtic since that shock defeat against unseeded Ferencvaros when the campaign was still in its infancy and the the club were still favourites to make history with their tenth successive title.
Dreams of making an impact in Europe’s elite competition were dynamited with an awful display where sloppy play from Scott Brown allowed David Siger to take aim from 25 yards and sizzle a lot shot wide of Barkas in the seventh minute.
Christie, who was playing as a makeshift attack-leader in the absence of Odsonne Edouard, missed a glorious chance from six yards before he atoned with a deflected leveller eight minutes after the interval.
WHAT A MISS…Ryan Christie passes up an opportunity from six yards as Ferencvaros thank their lucky stars.
However, Elhamed, brought in to add experience to the side, gifted the visitors their passage to the next stage. The Israeli defender made a complete mess of a clearance out of the Hungarian defence in the 75th minute with the Hoops in the ascendency.
Bewilderingly, he allowed the ball to kick up in front of him and that was all dangerman Nguen Tokmac to seize onto the ball.
He raced towards the goal with Elhamed chasing after him to force him into a corner. Keeper Barkas raced out unconvincingly and didn’t look too clever when the forward squeezed the ball under him and into the net for the winning goal.
Afterwards, a furious Lennon threatened a clear-out of under-performing flops as Celtic nosedived out of a European tournament for the THIRD time in just over a year following the previos season’s home defeats from the Romanians of Cluj and the Danes of FC Copenhagen.
The loss wiped over £30million of European prize money from the club’s budget.
DOWN AND OUT…Vasilas Barkas watches as Ferencaros striker Nguen Tokmac squeezes the ball under him for the winner.
Lennon fumed: “There are some players who may want to leave and have made inroads into that in the last six months or so.
“If they are making waves to leave the club they are obviously not committed. I have just put this out there because it has been bugging me for a long, long time. If they don’t want to be here we have to do something.
“It’s not fine going out at this stage of the competition, because we’re better than that. I’ll have to carry the can for it. It’s on me. It should have been done and dusted, with or without Odsonne.
“We will all regret it and we will have to suck it up for a few days. The best thing we can do is get back out and play. There are no excuses from me for the players. We have to apologise to the supporters
A BHOY ALONE…Neil Lennon watches in agony as the horror story unfolds.
“It is the first time in 15 years we have gone out so early. I have to take responsibility for it. They just aren’t hitting the heights yet. Some of them don’t look as if they’re full pelt yet. We shouldn’t have to give them any warnings.”
Lennon added: “I’m angry, frustrated and disappointed. The game was actually a lot easier than what I thought it was going to be, but we didn’t take our chances. We had plenty of them.
“The first goal we can maybe legislate a little bit, the second goal is really poor decision-making. It’s individual mistakes. It’s cost us against Copenhagen (in the last 32 of the Europa League) and it’s cost us again.
“If you keep giving the opposition oxygen they hang in there. They score early. We don’t get out quick enough to stop the shot which was poor for us. But in the second-half we dominated. We should have won the game.”
Celtic players and fans will be hoping for better fortune this time around against dangerous opponents.
TEAM: Barkas; Elhamed (sub: Frimpong 78), Ajer, Jullien, Taylor; Brown, McGregor, Ntcham; Christie, Elyounoussi, Forrest (sub: Ajeti 78).
* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Ferencvaros this afternoon – only in your champion CQN.