Celtic boss Neil Lennon on Europa League exit: 'We shot ourselves in the foot'

Northern Irishman blames defensive mistakes as Hoops lose to Copenhagen

Neil Lennon insists Celtic only have themselves to blame for their shock Europa League exit at the hands of Copenhagen.

The Scottish champions slipped to a 3-1 defeat against their Danish opponents in the second leg of their last 32 tie at Celtic Park and were eliminated 4-2 on aggregate.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Sign up to our Football newsletter

Lennon’s side paid a heavy price for defensive errors and being slack in possession as they missed out on joining Old Firm rivals Rangers in Friday’s last 16 draw.

Neil Lennon, right, along with coaches Damien Duff and John Kennedy, watch on as Celtic exit Europe. Picture: SNS

Jozo Sumunovic’s mistake handed Michael Santos the opener for Copenhagen and after Celtic levelled through Odsonne Edouard’s penalty, two late goals for the visitors made it a miserable night for Lennon.

“I’m hugely disappointed because we basically shot ourselves in the foot,” said the Celtic manager.

“We had total control in the first half, I don’t remember Fraser Forster having much to do. We had all the flow, we hit the post and had crosses going across the goal. At half time we were really pleased with the way the game had gone.

“But we made a mistake at the start of the second half and gave them oxygen and encouragement. We got back into the game, deservedly so, for all our good play.

“Then we just needed to manage the game and we didn’t do it. We shot ourselves in the foot for the second goal and that was the big moment of the tie.

“We had a great opportunity and we let it go. It’s bitterly disappointing to lose in the manner we did because we were the better team for huge parts of the game.

“We overplayed at the back and really should have gone back to the goalkeeper and reset. For some reason, we were getting pressed and played a loose ball in midfield, we were out of position and got punished for it. That’s not us.”

But Lennon believes his players do not deserve to be pilloried for their display in what was their first defeat of 2020.

“These players have been absolutely brilliant for me and I’m not going to sit here and criticise them for mistakes they made tonight,” he added. “They deserved better but that’s football - it’s cruel sometimes.

“They are intelligent boys they know they have let themselves down a little bit. We’ve had a good Europa League run and I’m really disappointed it has ended.

“I’m not going to throw anyone under a bus, we win as a team and lose as a team. I have a really talented bunch of players but we let ourselves down at key moments in the game.”