NEIL LENNON explained his Celtic team shake-up that brought the Hoops their first defeat in a triumphant Europa League Group E campaign that saw them qualify for the knock-out stages with two games still to go.
The Parkhead men toppled to a 2-0 loss against Cluj in Romania last night after winning four and drawing on e of the previous encounters on their way to Monday’s last-32 draw in Nyon.
Lennon, naturally, was a little upset with the setback that saw a 12-match winning run come to a halt, but admitted he had to look at other priorities with five crucial Premiership outings still to play before the winter break, starting with Hibs in Glasgow on Sunday.
The Irishman took the opportunity to rest some of his key men and introduce teenagers Scott Robertson and Karamoko Dembele to the challenges of European football.
The Hoops gaffer, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “Obviously, we’re disappointed to lose the game, but, in the main, I’m very pleased with what I got out of the game in terms of some of my players needing the game.
“My only criticism of the performance was while we played very well first-half, I thought we were very passive at the start of the second-half and I was very disappointed we conceded from a set-play.
“But, overall, we’ve had an amazing campaign and I’m very happy to have used the squad because we have so many important domestic games coming up.
“It wasn’t about tonight, the campaign for us has been won, done and dusted. Obviously, we’ve already won a trophy.
“It was important that I didn’t run the risk of injuries. Some of the players have been playing a lot of games and I wanted to give the squad some experience.
“I took a calculated risk with the team because I’ve got to think of the squad as a whole.
“And I can’t keep running the players into the ground with pressure games.
“This game had nothing in it for us, really, other than prestige more than anything else. I had to be fair to the other players to keep them motivated and keep them ticking along, give them game time.
“Hopefully, that will work in our favour and, come Sunday, we’ll be ready to go.
“These are huge games in the context of our season because the Championship is our priority.”