CELTIC manager Neil Lennon admitted his team had gone against type and club traditions with a feckless display that puts yet one more black mark on the Irishman’s cup record at the helm.
In seven cup competitions across four years in charge, Lennon has led the club to two Scottish Cups but also endured low points with a Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Ross County in his first fortnight and the home loss to second-tier Morton in the League Cup this season.
The club may be galloping towards a third successive league title but the fact that they won’t feature in the quarter-finals of either domestic cup competition for the first time in 32 years is not an irrelevance, Lennon conceded. “It’s in the club’s DNA, we’re built to win trophies and this was another one I wanted to win,” he said. “We showed footage of last year’s cup final and how much it meant to everyone but it seems to have gone in one ear and out the other. We started the game well but for some reason lost our way. Our passing, decision-making, defending, cohesion, partnerships within the team… we played like strangers at times. And for experienced players at this level, it’s disappointing.
“There’s been a lot of talk about goalscorers in the team but that wasn’t the problem today. Defensively and midfield-wise we were second best. That’s not something I can aim at the players for the majority of the season. We started well and then our passing was so poor we never really had a concerted period of pressure to work the Aberdeen goalkeeper. It’s difficult to single out any player for any credit. [Anthony] Stokes, possibly, and James Forrest for maybe a spark. The rest were very flat.”
Lennon reserved praise for the victors. “It’ll take a good team to beat them if they play like that,” he said of Aberdeen. “They play with good energy, were very committed and they looked the hungrier team at times.
“We were desperate to defend the trophy, we worked very hard this week, and for it to be as poor as that? It happens in football, it’s a cup tie, but I want more from my players.”