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‘ONLY OURSELVES TO BLAME,’ ADMITS BOSS

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DEJECTED Neil Lennon watched in horror as Celtic conceded “crazy” goals as they toppled out of the Champions League after losing 4-3 to Cluj at Parkhead tonight to exit on a 5-4 aggregate.

The Hoops were lost in a defensive blunderland and the Romanians looked dangerous any time they got sight of Scott Bain’s goal.

The visitors were given far too much room and space in which to operate and Lennon’s men failed to take advantage after going 2-1 ahead on the night and 3-2 overall.

Celtic have now exited the competition at this stage in successive seasons, after losing to AEK Athens last term.

Lennon, speaking to BBC Sport, admitted: “We had the lead and we’ve let it slip through our own decision making.

“The goals we conceded are crazy. You’ve got to do the basics well – you’ve got to stop crosses, close people down, get your head on things – and it was almost as if we scored and wanted to switch off.

“We’ve only ourselves to blame. If you don’t do the basics defensively well enough then at this level you get punished. We’ve let it go.”

Lennon’s men were trailing 1-0 on the night after half-time when Cirpian Deac was gifted a free header after a left-wing cross, but they turned it around early in the second-half with goals from James Forrest and Odsonne Edouard.

However, Billel Omrani converted a penalty after Scott Brown needlessly handled and, although Ryan Christie restored the home side’s lead, Omrani and George Tucudean struck to earn Cluj a place in the play-off against Slavia Prague.

Lennon said: “We didn’t compete in the first 45 minutes at all. The second-half we really had a lot more urgency, but the goals we conceded are crazy. We needed that two-goal cushion, really.

“What surprised me was our approach to the game. We’ve worked hard to get where we are and we’ve basically thrown it away.

“Now we need to look at the Europa league, make sure we qualify first then take it from there.”

Lennon also defended his decision to start midfielder Callum McGregor at left-back in place of £3million man Boli Bolingoli who played in the 1-1 first leg draw last week.

He added: “People can point at that, but he did set up our equaliser and had a very good game. I don’t think the left side was the problem tonight.”

Celtic now face Sherrif, of Moldova, or Sweden’s AIK in the Europa play-off with the latter holding a 2-1 advantage going into Thursday’s second leg.

 

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