Former Celtic player and close friend of Neil Lennon’s – Chris Sutton – has slammed the Hoops boss for his Cluj mistakes.
Celtic’s incredible dropping of the Champions League ball on Tuesday night still hurts supporters. It was a night of roller-coaster emotions and a night that ended with the most heartbreaking of conclusions for Hoops fans.
However, it might all have been different if Celtic boss Neil Lennon hadn’t made some tactical blunders. With Callum McGregor, arguably our best midfielder, playing at left-back, it allowed Cluj to control to take the game to us from the engine room.
And that was one particular note of frustration for Sutton too. Speaking in his Daily Record column, the big former striker criticised Lennon for his decision-making against the Romanians.
“The decision to play Callum McGregor at left-back was a mistake. That’s not hindsight. The evidence was already there.
“It ruined the balance of the team and seemed to mess with their heads. The rest of the players weren’t at it at all, as if bewildered as to why the manager would take their best midfielder out of the engine room and stick him at full-back.
“He ends up shunted out of his best position in a huge game. It killed him and you would imagine it has done the same to Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo. Lennon said he wanted more technicians in the team. Why? At 1-1 from the first leg, Celtic had qualified. It was about seeing it out.”
Neil’s Cluj mistakes were there for all to see
Yes, it was a night to forget for the champions. But Neil has to take his share of the blame for some of his tactical errors in the match. McGregor at left-back was never rectified. He wasn’t pushed back into the midfield after half-time or the hour mark. There was no in-game solution from the manager.
But it’s important not to get too caught up in the one mistake. There were others throughout the match too, such as bringing on Leigh Griffiths for around 10 minutes. Celtic should really have tried to hit Cluj with both barrels to get that two-goal advantage. Bringing Griff on a lot earlier could’ve made a telling impact.
Yet, as well as the tactical mistakes, there were some things Lenny can’t legislate for. Scott Brown’s baffling hand-ball inside the penalty box is right up there. What was the Celtic captain thinking? It also came during a period in the game where we seemed to have the most control we would have all night.
You then have Scott Bain parrying straight to Billel Omrani for the Cluj third too. So even despite the mistakes on Lenny’s part, we could still have progressed had it not been for comical individual errors.
Celtic now move into the Europa League playoff round, and Lenny has a big job on his hands these days. Qualification for UEFA’s secondary club competition is of vital importance.
But Neil can’t keep experimenting out of nowhere like he did on Tuesday night.