x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Champions League: Celtic 0 Juventus 3

An angry Neil Lennon accused the referee of not stopping Juventus' players from playing 'rugby' against his Celtic side as the Italian champions all but ended the Scottish side's hopes of progressing to the quarter-finals.

Juventus's Claudio Marchisio celebrates with Stephan Lichsteiner and Arturo Vidal after scoring against Celtic.
Juventus's Claudio Marchisio celebrates with Stephan Lichsteiner and Arturo Vidal after scoring against Celtic.

Neil Lennon accused Juventus of playing rugby and criticised referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco after Celtic were beaten 3-0 by Juventus.

Goals from Alessandro Matri, Claudio Marchisio and Mirko Vucinic all but ended the Scottish champions' European hopes in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

However, the Celtic boss vented his anger with the referee and his officials for their reluctance to punish a physical performance by the Juventus players.

"It looked to me as if they were fouling at every opportunity," Lennon said after the match.

"The referee was warned by our players to keep an eye on it but he ignored our requests time and again.

"We were getting hauled back and the referee is looking straight at it.

"Are the rules different in Spain and Italy to what they are in Britain? On that showing they must be.

"I pointed it out to the referee at half-time but he waved me away. I made it clear to the players to flag it up and they did.

"It is not rugby they are playing, it is soccer. There is a way to defend and we do it as fairly as possible."

Matri put Juventus ahead with a goal after just three minutes, with Efe Ambrose - who only arrived back in Glasgow from Nigeria's African Cup of Nations squad yesterday morning - caught out by Federico Peluso's pass, allowing the forward to poke it home.

Celtic played at a high tempo and tested Gianluigi Buffon, with Juventus pegged back in their own half for much of the first hour, but Matri turned provider on the 73rd minute, laying the ball off for Marchisio who cut inside and drilled past Fraser Forster from 12 yards out.

Then it was Marchisio's turn to offer an assist, setting up Vucinic with seven minutes remaining.

Lennon was reluctant to admit he made a mistake by playing Ambrose, who had featured for Nigeria in their 1-0 win over Burkina Faso on Sunday

"He was caught for the first goal but it was nothing to do with tiredness and I felt once he got over that he was fine," Lennon insisted.

"There was no sign of tiredness when he goes in and should score with a header, that is down to a bad miss.

"Maybe late as the game progressed he did tire, but with losing Mikael Lustig we had no alternative but to keep Efe on because we needed the pace at the back.

"For 70 or 80 minutes we played fantastic football and were on the front foot.

"But the second goal burst the bubble and if you make defensive mistakes at this level you get punished, and that's what happened.

"We need a miracle. We have to try to be competitive and try to work our way into the tie, a 3-0 deficit is almost insurmountable."

Antonio Conte, the Juventus manager, suggested that Lennon was overreacting when told about his opposite number's comments on the referee.

"Quite often in Italy we have the bad habit of over-criticising so I will leave it to the Celtic manager to criticise this evening," he said.

Conte was satisfied with his side's performance during what was at times a frantic match.

"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," he said after the match.

"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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