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Champions League Qualifying Play-Offs Round

Lennon looking for miracle

Celtic manager Neil Lennon has admitted his side need a miracle to remain in the UEFA Champions League after a 3-0 home defeat to Juventus in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

Last Updated: 13/02/13 at 09:50 Post Comment

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The Scottish side were made to pay for two defensive blunders and a failure to make the most of their own opportunities as a brave and determined display ultimately counted for nothing against the Serie A leaders.

Alessandro Matri opened the scoring in the opening moments after a blunder from Efe Ambrose, with the defender again at fault for Mirko Vucinic's late third, with Claudio Marchisio also on target.

Celtic's European adventure looks to be over for another season ahead of the second leg in Turin on March 6 and Lennon told Sky Sports: "It is going to take a miracle.

"We will compete, we will try and score, we will try and make the tie competitive but it is a very tall order now.

"I am bitterly disappointed, I think the scoreline flatters Juventus, but that is the harsh reality of football at this level.

"We were excellent for 75-80 minutes. The second goal is a sucker-punch but the third goal was really poor from our point of view. Some of our football tonight was excellent and I didn't think that there were three goals between the teams."

The Celtic boss was particularly unimpressed with the performance of Spanish referee Alberto Mallenco, with the official doing little to stop regular incidents of wrestling in the Juve box as Celtic prepared to take corners.

"I thought he was poor," Lennon admitted. "I thought he was very pro-Juventus. I was disappointed with his performance to say the least.

"They were being fouled at every occasion. The referee is looking at it. They were putting their arms around players, blocking their runs, trying to pull them down...

"The game must be different in Spain and in Italy from what it is in Britain because you cannot do that in the penalty box because it is a penalty."

Ambrose had played for Nigeria in their Africa Cup of Nations Cup final win over Burkina Faso on Sunday and did not arrive back in Glasgow until the morning of the game, with Lennon admitting selecting the defender had backfired.

"He was poor for the first goal and then he has missed a great chance to make it 1-1," he said.

"Unfortunately for him he has just had one of those nights. I am not sure if it was fatigue or a lack of concentration, but the third goal is very disappointing from Efe's point of view."

Juventus manager Antonio Conte, who stayed away from any controversy when told about Lennon's assessment of the referee, was satisfied with his side's performance during what was at times a frantic match.

He said: "Celtic are a good team but we knew this, and there was a fantastic crowd who were like two extra men and that can only drive a team on.

"So it was a difficult match for us, but we kept our heads.

"Celtic played with great intensity but we showed great maturity and overall it was an excellent result for us."

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