NEIL Lennon has advised Efe Ambrose to get his head straight on and off the pitch after the Nigerian emerged as the fall-guy for Celtic’s Champions League elimination against Juventus.
Ambrose was fined by his manager for missing the team bus to training on Wednesday morning. The defender had to hail a taxi to take part in the squad’s final session before the second leg of their last-16 tie in Turin.
The 24-year-old was left on the substitutes’ bench for the game in the Juventus Stadium but came on as a half-time replacement for the injured Victor Wanyama. Ambrose then missed a simple headed chance to equalise on the night for Celtic, mirroring the opportunity he wasted in the first leg in Glasgow when he tamely failed to convert another close-range header.
Also at fault for two of Juventus’ goals in the 3-0 first leg loss, in which he played just 48 hours after returning from his country’s Africa Cup of Nations triumph in South Africa, Ambrose will not reflect happily on Celtic’s 5-0 aggregate loss.
“He’s just let himself down,” said Celtic manager Lennon. “He was ten minutes late on Wednesday morning and we left without him because he’s only got to get out of his bed, walk down the stairs and get on the bus. Anyway, he’s been disciplined for it. He owes me a fine and he is going to be a few quid out of pocket by the end of the week.
“If Ambrose could head it, then both ties would have been different. I mean, he’s missed another one on Wednesday from four yards out. That would have made the game 1-1. I didn’t expect to win the tie, but at 1-1 you think ‘can we go and win the game now’, but it wasn’t to be.
“Whether he would have started the game or not has nothing to do with what happened on Wednesday morning. We were of a mind to go with Victor Wanyama and Kelvin Wilson at the back anyway, just to give us that stability and to be fair to the two of them, I thought they were excellent. Losing Victor at half-time was a hammer blow really, and then losing Adam Matthews to injury as well.”
Lennon does not believe Ambrose is suffering from any physical after-effects of his exertions for Nigeria in South Africa where he was rated as one of the leading performers in the tournament. “No, I don’t think that’s the case,” insisted Lennon. “He’s a fit boy. In the African Cup of Nations, he didn’t play in every game because he got suspended for one anyway.
“So he played more or less the same amount of games as everybody else in our squad during that period, so you can’t use that as an excuse.
“After the first leg against Juventus, he came back and scored two goals in two domestic games for us. But he’s just tailed off a wee bit so maybe there’s a little bit of mental fatigue rather than physical fatigue. There’s no serious issue.” the opportunity