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Page last updated at 22:40 GMT, Thursday, 26 August 2010 23:40 UK

Celtic manager Lennon accepts blame for European exit

Celtic manager Neil Lennon cuts a dejected figure
Celtic manager Lennon cuts a dejected figure in Utrecht

Dejected Celtic manager Neil Lennon was left looking for answers after his side were thumped 4-0 by Utrecht and knocked out of Europe in the process.

"It's hugely disappointing for myself, for the supporters, for the club," he said after the 4-2 aggregate defeat.

"We were poor throughout the spine of the team and I will take full responsibility for that.

"I have seen it too many times in Europe. It's a mentality thing, I think, more than anything else."

And he added of Celtic's woeful record on their European travels: "It has nothing to do with ability and we have to bridge that eventually."

When Lennon said prior to the match that "an early goal would make a difference" he did not mean for Utrecht.

Yet two strikes from the penalty spot by Ricky van Wolfswinkel in the first 20 minutes heaped the pressure on Celtic, and they did not respond well.

"I thought we picked the right team and the right shape but even when we did change it, it didn't seem to make any difference," the manager told BBC Scotland.

"We have lost three penalties in the two away games (in Europe). We are not giving ourselves a chance.

"At half-time I said: 'look, we are still in the tie. We just need a goal. Be patient, let's not make any more silly mistakes.'

"And I just about got to my seat and we were 3-0 down so there's not much you can say after that."

Lennon had mixed feelings when asked about the penalties that were awarded to the Dutch side, first against Jos Hooiveld for a block on Michael Silberbauer, then against goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska for a foul on Dries Mertens.

We made it pretty clear to the players that this was a huge game for us

Celtic manager Neil Lennon

"The first one was pretty dubious, to say the least; the second one was a defensive error," he said.

"We were still ahead in the tie and we just had to shut up shop for 10-15 minutes and give ourselves a foothold in the tie."

With the fixture tied at 2-2 on aggregate at half-time, Lennon and his assistants Johan Mjallby and Alan Thompson changed the set-up, but to no avail.

"The three in midfield weren't getting any second balls, they kept getting knocked over too easily," explained the manager.

"So we decided to have (Scott) Brown and (Beram) Kayal sitting and Effy (Efrain Juarez) trying to support (Georgios) Samaras more.

"We had three in front of our back four to make sure they could not play through us but we keep giving away cheap goals.

MY SPORT: DEBATE

"We get bumped off the ball with three players coming out to block a shot. In Europe you have to throw your body at things at times. We don't seem to want to do that."

And Lennon added: "Before the tie I was cautiously optimistic but you always have that caution because of our away record and it's still a pretty new back four and team.

"But it's not an excuse. We had a two-goal lead going into the game and we played very well at the weekend. We will just have to work really hard at the domestic scene.

"We made it pretty clear to the players that this was a huge game for us.

"We'll have to get over it very quickly because we have a game on Sunday. But it might take a week or two before it really sinks in."



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see also
Utrecht 4-0 Celtic (agg 4-2)
26 Aug 10 |  Europe
Newcastle's Forster joins Celtic
24 Aug 10 |  Celtic
Rangers outstrip Celtic Euro cash
24 Aug 10 |  Rangers
Celtic to continue striker search
20 Aug 10 |  Celtic
Lennon pleased with clean sheet
19 Aug 10 |  Celtic
Celtic 2-0 Utrecht
19 Aug 10 |  Europe


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