Celtic manager Neil Lennon hits out at Bobby Madden call and will recruit new centre-back in window

Neil Lennon has accused referee Bobby Madden of being “too quick to get the red out” to dismiss Nir Bitton in the moment he believes proved pivotal to the outcome of his Celtic side’s 1-0 derby loss at Ibrox.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was left open-mouthed by referee John Beaton's decision to show Nir Bitton a straight red card - the turning point on an afternoon where his team had been dominant before losing 1-0. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Bitton was tussling wide on the right channel of the pitch, 30 yards from goal, when he grappled Alfredo Morelos to the turf in the 62nd minute, but Beaton determined that Kristoffer Ajer was not covering and so the Colombian would have had a goalscoring opportunity. Lennon rejected such an assessment out of hand on an afternoon that he believes his men showed sufficient authority to still challenge Rangers in their pursuit of a 10th straight title – despite now trailing them by a monstrous 19-points, with three games in hand.

“Morelos might have got a shot off but it would have been from a very narrow angle,” said Lennon. “It’s not even in the box. I thought he was too quick to get the red out. It’s poor from Nir but it’s not a red card and that changed the course of the game. We had been in full control.

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“It’s a sore one because we were the dominant team. We played brilliantly and the red card gave Rangers a bit of encouragement and they got lucky with the [Callum McGregor own] goal, obviously. I don’t think they had an attempt on target so that suggests how well we played, even with 10 men. I thought we deserved a lot more.

“We have a lot to do now. We came here to win and we played that way so we are disappointed with the decision and the result, but not the performance. Over the past few derby games everyone has been saying Rangers have been the better team but today we were. We made them look laborious at times and were well on top. Allan McGregor got man of the match, which speaks volumes. There is no doubt the sending off had a huge impact. We had to change our shape, change personnel, which we didn’t want to do. We had felt the longer the game went on we would win, not lose.”

‘Change of scenery’

Lennon, who stressed the club’s now embarked-on short trip to Dubia is not a “break” but a “change of scenery for training”, said the club will now look to bring in a centre-back in January. Bitton was selected at Ibrox on account of an injury to Christopher Jullien that will allow him to play little part in the remainder of the season. “Yes, it is an area where we will probably look to bring someone in,” he said, on-loan Brighton centre-back Shane Duffy again failing to convince when introduced late on. “Jullien is going to be out for a few months. He has ruptured ligaments in his knee. Obviously that was a blow but I thought I was happy with the team.

“You have to keep going. You can’t just say it’s over because there is a lot of football to be played. We have to be a lot more consistent in the second half of the season than in the first. There was plenty of belief in that performance. If we keep playing like that, we won’t have any problems at all.”

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