Neil Lennon refuses to criticise Jozo Simunovic over error

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Neil Lennon refused to criticise Jozo Simunovic or any of his Celtic players after they crashed out of the Europa League with a 4-2 aggregate defeat to FC Copenhagen.

The last-32 tie was finely balanced at 1-1 following the first leg at the Parken Stadium last week, but the Danish side took the lead in the 51st minute through substitute Michael Santos, who took advantage of a slack back pass by Hoops defender Simunovic.

Striker Odsonne Edouard levelled with a VAR-awarded penalty in the 82nd minute, but three minutes later midfielder Pep Biel restored the visitors’ lead. Dame N’Doye, who scored last week, added a third in the 87th minute to seal Celtic’s fate.

“I am not going to throw anyone under a bus. We win as a team and lose as a team,” Lennon said after Celtic’s first defeat of 2020.

“They are a really talented bunch of players but we have left ourselves down.

“I have not spoken to Jozo. I have a duty of care to him, he has come back from a long-term injury and he has been absolutely fantastic.

“Yes, he made a mistake and then we recovered. He didn’t make a mistake for a second goal. If I need to pick him up I will. That’s my job. He has been magnificent for me. He made a mistake, he held his hands up and we move on.

“These players have been absolutely brilliant for me, I am not going to sit here and criticise them for mistakes. They deserved better tonight and they didn’t get that. Sometimes football is cruel.

“But when you make individual errors you give the opposition encouragement. They know they have let themselves down a bit.

“We have had a good Europa League run and I am disappointed it ended tonight.”

FC Copenhagen boss Stale Solbakken says small margins were at play again.

He said: “They could have killed us off in the Parken Stadium and we could have scored the penalty there.

“We quietened them down and then Celtic had a good period, they had us on the ropes but we coped.

“But we are not fantastic and Celtic very bad – it could have been them, it could have been us, but it is us.

“We are proud to come here and score three goals. It was a hard place to come even in the Champions League. It was first time a Danish team has scored here, so well done to the lads.”

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