O'Neill blast for Rijkaard over 'anti-football' jibe

CELTIC manager Martin O’Neill has angrily hit back at Frank Rijkaard for branding the Hoops’ style of play "anti-football".

That was the way in which the Barcelona head coach described the tactics of the Scottish champions following Wednesday’s Champions League Group F draw in the Nou Camp.

The former AC Milan and Dutch superstar never meant any offence but the comments provoked the kind of defensive reaction from O’Neill which his side put to good use in midweek.

O’Neill claims that had Chelsea’s multi-million-pound side done the same against the Catalan giants, then they would have been hailed instead of being condemned for their negativity.

The Celtic boss has had his run-ins with Jose Mourinho in the past and he responded: "If, for instance, Chelsea had gone to the Nou Camp with the form Barcelona have been in and drawn, and with many more attacking options than we possessed, people would have said it was a marvellous result.

"It was a brilliant effort. I didn’t know that he had said that.

"We had to get something in Barcelona and when you possess the players that they do at this minute, and play the type of football they play, any team who would attempt to put men behind the ball might be considered to be anti-Barcelona football.

"I have no doubt that managing Barcelona and their players is a fantastic pleasure.

"I went up to Frank at the end of the game to say well done with what he has achieved.

"I went to the last game of their season in the year before last against Celta Vigo and the club was in absolute turmoil.

"The fans had turned completely against the team and I think they were playing a fair bit of anti-football themselves, which wasn’t too pleasing to their fans.

"I’m pleased they have turned it around, as befits a club like that."

O’Neill, meanwhile, has saluted Hearts for their impressive 2-1 victory over FC Basle in the UEFA Cup on Thursday night.

O’Neill said: "Hearts’ performance was terrific.

"They have put themselves back in it and you cannot say they didn’t deserve that given the decisions that have gone against them."

Celtic, who lead Rangers by a point at the top of the Premier League, travel to Dundee tomorrow.

They will be without Chris Sutton and Alan Thompson, who were sent off in the stormy defeat at Rangers last week.

O’Neill had hoped to have Thompson available but the midfielder’s red card was not overturned.