Celtic manager Neil Lennon defiant in face of AC Milan defeat: "When we get all our players back and up to speed we will be absolutely fine"

Celtic manager Neil Lennon seized on his team’s “marked” improvement from the derby defeat as he digested the 3-1 loss to AC Milan in the club’s Europa League opener.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes his team were "markedly better" despite then loss to Milan than in their derby defeat (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Lennon conceded the concession of further “soft” goals was concerning but praised the second-half endeavours against the Italians as “miles better” than their souless showing against Rangers - the upturn coinciding with Lennon switching to a 4-2-3-1 from the 3-5-2 the side have seemed to struggle in recently.

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“I thought we deserved something out of the game against a very good side,” he said.“Performance-wise I thought we were miles better in the second half [than the weekend], more like ourselves. It was markedly better. When we get all our players back and up to match speed we will be absolutely fine. You could see there was a surge in quality and belief in the second half and that was missing on Saturday.

“People can be critical of the team on tonight’s performance if they want, that’s fine, and they definitely deserved criticism at the weekend because we weren’t at our best. But there were a lot of signs for me that we will have another good season. We could have shied away from it all after the criticism they and I have taken over the last couple of days but they showed real personality. I know what we’ve got in there and we will get better. But the goals we lost were poor, soft. It was a header in our box eight yards out. We should be dealing with that have dealt with that and we had enough bodies back to deal with a counter attack at the second goal.

“It was great to see Ryan [Christie] back. [Albian] Ajeti I thought was outstanding. [Diego] Laxalt I thought was outstanding. [Kristoffer] Ajer. There were a lot of really good performances. I couldn’t start with a back four. I couldn’t start Ryan based on what the medical team told me. We had no wingers at the weekend apart from [Mohamed] Elyounoussi. We have started the season 4-3-3 and were alright in some of the games, we scored more goals with 3-5-2, but it’s about personnel and getting players back fitter and hungrier that was a big plus tonight.”

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