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RODGERS DEFENDS LUCKLESS EFE

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CELTIC boss Brendan Rodgers has defended Efe Ambrose following the centre-half’s own goal in the 3-1 defeat from Barcelona in Dublin yesterday.

Leigh Griffiths had just wiped out Arda Turan’s opener when the Nigerian international sliced a clearance beyond Craig Gordon.

Rodgers said: “He is an unlucky guy. A striker would have been proud of that goal. It was unfortunate for him and I actually thought he did okay at times.”

Reacting to reports that a small section of fans among the 47,900 crowd had turned on the player, Rodgers said: “If there were boos – I didn’t hear that myself – it’s not nice. It is a man who, whatever his faults are, gives his all for the club, devotes his life to Celtic.

“He prepares well, he trains well, he doesn’t cheat. He is a man who wants to get better.

“The fans will support anyone who plays, whether it is Efe or anyone else who pulls on the green and white jersey. Everyone needs that support.”

With Erik Sviatchenko, Jozo Simunovic and Dedryck Boyata injured, Ambrose is the only fit and experienced central defender available to Rodgers.

Veteran Kolo Toure was reunited with his former Liverpool boss a week ago, but missed out in Dublin against Messi and Co as he remained at home to work on his fitness.

It would be an enormous gamble for Rodgers to put him straight into the heart of the defence for Wednesday’s crucial Champions League second leg qualifier against Astana with the tie poised at 1-1 following last week’s 1-1 draw.

Young Irishman Eoghan O’Connell made his European debut in Kazakhstan and also played the first-half of the game against Barca as he continued to gain first team experience.

Shane Duffy may well get his dream move if Celtic can negotiate their way past Astana in midweek. 

The prospect of playing in the Champions League may be more appealing to the 24 year old Derry man rather than another season in the Championship at Blackburn Rovers or Brighton. 

One thing is certain about the Champions League: poor defending is usually always punished and you need to add more than a little luck to get anywhere. 

 
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