NEIL LENNON defended his tactics as Celtic put in a horror performance against the team from Transylvania at a packed Parkhead last night.
The Hoops flopped spectacularly to a 4-3 defeat against the Romanians of Cluj to exit the Champions League on a 5-4 aggregate score.
It was x-certificate stuff in the east end of Glasgow as Lennon’s men gifted Dan Petrescu’s outfit a passage to the play-off stages of Europe’s elite competition where they will now play Slavia Prague – while the Scots take on the winners between Moldova’s Sheriff and Sweden’s AIK in the Europa League.
And Lennon insisted Celtic’s tactics were not to blame for the defeat – despite throwing bodies forward in search of a third goal when the tie was in their favour.
It was a night of high drama and bitter disappointment for Scotland’s title kings as they scored through James Forrest, Odsonne Edouard and Ryan Christie, but still managed to press the self-destruct button to miss out on competing in Europe’s most prestigious tournament – and blow a £30million bounty at the same time.
SWITCHED…Callum McGregor was moved to left-back.
The team never settled and the gamble of playing Callum McGregor at left-back back-fired in the most awful circumstances – especially at the Romanians’ crucial first strike when he allowed an opponent to run off him to score with a simple header beyond an unconvincing Scott Bain.
Lennon, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “At 2-1, it’s always in the balance, so you need to try and get the third goal. Anything can happen, penalties, a set -play, deflection. It was important we went for it. When we played into Odsonne Edouard, we had the chance to make more opportunities, but didn’t.
“That’s an aspect of our game we need to look at, we need to be more ruthless. To score three goals at home and not win the game, we’ve only ourselves to blame.
“It’s hugely disappointing for us all as a collective. We have to accept the criticism which comes our way – whether it be from the media, our own supporters or elsewhere.
“We need to regroup, qualify for the Europa League and make a strong claim in that.”
Lennon added: “We’ve been loose and in important moments of the game we have switched off.
“The players are bitterly disappointed as they have missed out on a good opportunity. We all have. It’s a collective responsibility.
“We had enough quality out there to win the tie over the two legs. We conceded a poor goal away from home and could have scored a couple more away from home, as well.
“Tonight we had good chances in the second-half, but we didn;t take them. That would have put the tie beyond Cluj.”