CELTIC manager Neil Lennon became embroiled in angry exchanges on Twitter yesterday as he defended his decision to play Efe Ambrose in the 3-0 Champions League defeat by Juventus.
Ambrose was included in the starting line-up on Tuesday night despite having been part of Nigeria’s Africa Cup of Nations winning side in Johannesburg just 48 hours earlier.
The 24-year-old defender was at fault for Juventus’ third minute opening goal at Celtic Park, missed a glorious chance to equalise and then blundered in possession to present the Italian champions with the chance from which they made it 3-0 in the closing stages.
The defeat has all but ended Celtic’s prospects of reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League when they face Juventus again in Turin on 6 March in the second leg of the last-16 tie.
Lennon, who admitted in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday night’s match that playing Ambrose had been a “gamble”, initially took to Twitter yesterday to praise the Celtic supporters for their backing of his team against Juventus. “Whilst the result last night was very disappointing I want to pay tribute to our magnificent fans last night . . . there is no support like them,” said Lennon.
But the tone quickly changed as Lennon engaged with some responses from fellow users of the social media outlet, some of them Celtic supporters and others clearly followers of rival clubs.
“The same fans that can’t be arsed watching Celtic at home in any domestic game? Aye they’re class #indenial,” was tweeted by @michaelgray89, prompting Lennon to reply: “Ssshhh there there . . . you just keep watching us from your tele.”
“I had a great time watching Ambrose last night on my tele. He is an egg lol,” was the response, to which Lennon retorted: “Go away now little boy.”
When quizzed further on Ambrose’s inclusion by another tweeter, Lennon said: “I wanted the pace at centre-half plus he and Kelvin Wilson been fantastic together in Europe.”
Lennon also took issue with several assessments of Celtic’s performance. “You must have been watching a different game from me . . . we pegged them back for long periods of the game,” he said in one tweet.
In another, he stated: “Utter rubbish . . . they wanted control of the game but the players never let them breathe . . . our pressing was great.”
As the exchanges continued, Lennon became more dismissive of those questioning his view. “Just a stereotypical way of looking at the game . . . there is no depth to your opinion on the game,” he added.
One account user asked Lennon if he was aware of Spanish referee Alberto Mallenco’s son playing for the Juventus Under-12 side.
“You’re kidding me right . . . have you any evidence of that,” replied Lennon. The mischievous claim was not substantiated.
Several tweeters urged Lennon not to respond to criticism, one of them suggesting it was inappropriate for a Celtic manager to do so in such a public forum.
“Could you imagine big Jock sitting arguing with them the day after a massive defeat? Lacks professionalism & class,” it said.
An unapologetic Lennon replied: “Get off your self righteous pulpit, am defending myself and team.”
Another tweeter said: “Please do yourself a favour and delete your Twitter, genuinely get embarrassed 90% of the time you’re on this.”
Lennon retorted: “Don’t follow me then.”
The Celtic manager, who has almost 180,000 followers on Twitter, has previously attracted headlines for his use of it when he raged at decisions which went against his team in their Scottish Cup semi-final defeat by Hearts at Hampden last season.