Celtic Euro exit puts heat on boss Lennon

Champions League
Celtic boss Neil Lennon sees Hoops crash out of Champions League.

Celtic boss Neil Lennon is already feeling the heat after Celtic crashed out of the Champions League against CFR Cluj on Tuesday night.

After appearing to clear the biggest hurdle, picking up a 1-1 draw in Romania in the first leg, the Hoops fell at the next, as the visitors wrapped up a 4-3 win on a dramatic night at Parkhead.

Celtic have dominated domestically after completing an historic triple treble last season, but progressing in Europe’s elite competition still appears to be a bridge too far for them.

Celtic fell at the very same hurdle this time last year when Brendan Rodgers, now at Leicester City, was in charge, losing to AEK Athens.

They went on to reach the last 32 of the Europa League and will have to settle for that competition again following Cluj’s smash and grab raid on Tuesday night.

Lennon claimed after the game that his side shot themselves in the foot on more than one occasion after failing to prevent crosses into the box that lead to two of Cluj’s goals. But his team selection on the night raised one or two eyebrows in the crowd and opens him up for criticism from the fans, media and pundits alike.

Lennon opted to play the dynamic midfielder Callum McGregor at left-back in favour of normal first choice Boli Bolingoli, and it no doubt contributed to Celtic labouring through the first-half, with them trailing 2-1 on aggregate at the break.

Lennon’s reasoning was that he wanted both McGregor and Olivier Ntcham on the pitch, and the only way to do it was to play the former in defence, but it could have back-fired.

McGregor got off to a shaky start and was beaten to a cross as Ciprian Deac headed the opener but he did make amends when he set up the equaliser as he and all of his team-mates improved vastly in the second half.

A half-time blast from Lennon appeared to have done the trick as they scored two goals to lead 2-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate but three goals in the last 16 minutes of the game rocked Parkhead and sent Cluj through.

Celtic now return to domestic duties this weekend when they face Dunfermline in the Betfred Cup and Lennon will be demanding a response.

Celtic have got the season off to a flyer once again domestically when hammering St Johnstone 7-0 and Motherwell 5-2 and the aim will be to continue in that manner.

Rangers, under the leadership of Steven Gerrard, look as though could be more of a threat in his second season and Lennon will have to keep the Blue half of Glasgow at bay or the pressure will really be on.