Pressure mounts on Lennon after European exit
Pressure: Neil Lennon (pic: SNS Group)
Sparta Prague 4 Celtic 1
Celtic are out of Europe. Neil Lennon could soon be out of a job.
With pressure mounting on the Northern Irishman after another dreadful result, time appears to be running out for him to save his Parkhead career.
With the Glasgow club already 11 points behind Premiership leaders Rangers, albeit with two games in hand, fans’ patience with their manager has been wearing thin.
In the wake of Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Hibs, Lennon responded to speculation on his future by claiming that chief executive Peter Lawwell remained “very supportive”.
After another 4-1 hammering from the Czechs after their 4-1 victory at Parkhead, that loyalty will surely be tested to the full.
Out of Europe before December and the bid for an historic 10-in-a-row in grave danger of buckling under the pressure, it seems only a matter of time before Lennon is removed from the role.
Lennon has coped with many a crisis as manager of Celtic but he will do well to emerge from this alarming run with his job intact.
He has watched his team concede 13 goals in four Europa League games with some schoolboy defending, the side shipping 21 goals in their last nine matches overall. He has overseen just two wins in that time, a damning statistic which may prove the catalyst for change.
Tonight Odsonne Edouard opened the scoring for Celtic, but the home side quickly turned the game in their favour, with goals from David Hancko and Lukas Julis having their team ahead at the interval. Another strike from Julis and a late counter from Srdan Plavsic completed another sorry European chapter for Celtic.
With just one point from four games in Group H, seven points is the maximum that Celtic can reach, a total which will be passed by at least two of Lille, AC Milan or Sparta.
“We didn’t deserve to lose the game 4-1. Things aren’t going for us at the moment,” said Lennon afterwards. “I’ve been in situations like this before as a manager and player. There is no reason for me to believe we won’t turn this around.”
Celtic: Bain, Elhamed, Jullien, Ajer, Laxalt, Brown (Rogic 66′), McGregor, Christie, Ntcham, Elyounoussi, Edouard (Klimala 82′).
Other result: Lille 1 AC Milan 1.
Opener: Scott Arfield (pic: SNS Group)
Gerrard upbeat despite Gers’ late collapse
Rangers 2 Benfica 2
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard was upbeat despite watching his side throw away a two-goal lead at Ibrox.
The home side seemed set for the win which would have taken them through to the last 32 with goals from Scott Arfield and Kemar Roofe putting them in a great position with 12 minutes to go.
However, Benfica hit back to take a point back to Portugal, efforts from Goncalo Ramos and Pizzi seeing them end the night level on points with Rangers at the top of Group D.
“Yes, there’s disappointment,” Gerrard said. “But when you go over it as we did a couple of weeks ago, when the emotion settles, then I think it will be a positive result.
“I think over the 90 minutes it was a fair result, even at 2-0 I didn’t think we deserved to be two in front. I didn’t think we had full control of the game. But you have to remember we are playing a top team, they are not a Europa League team in my opinion.
“They are a Champions League team. They’re the fourth biggest spenders in world football. They have a great manager with a great pedigree so we have to be positive about the result.
“We would certainly have taken this position we are in now when the group started. Of course, at 2-0 up we are slightly disappointed that we didn’t get the qualification done.
“But we are playing against top players and a top team. Benfica found some weaknesses in our performance towards the end of the game when we tired and we paid for it.
“But I will certainly go away and take the positives from the two games against Benfica. For where we are as a team, for us to compete against Benfica over two games is a big positive for me.”
Rangers: McGregor, Tavernier, Barisic, Goldson, Balogun, Davis, Kamara, Arfield, Roofe, Kent, Morelos.
Other result: Standard Liege 2 Lech Poznan 1.