Manager: I'm so proud of my team
By: Laura Brannan in Barcelona on 23 Oct, 2012 22:54
NEIL Lennon was just thirty seconds away from his finest result as Celtic manager. Football, however, can sometimes be cruel, and an injury-time goal from Jordi Alba was enough to give Barcelona a 2-1 victory in the Nou Camp.
It was a heartbreaking blow for the Celtic side, who had performed magnificently throughout the night against the best club side in the world, and would have thoroughly merited a point from the UEFA Champions League clash.
Speaking after the game, the Hoops boss was understandably disappointed at the result, but very proud of his team.
“This is the best team in the world so to come here and play like that – it doesn’t surprise me about these players,” said Neil Lennon. “Everyone had written us off but I know the quality and the character of the team.
“While I’m bitterly disappointed for the players, I’m also immensely proud of them. They were brave, they stuck to what we asked them to do.
“They didn’t lose their composure – we knew we’d be under pressure and we knew we’d give the ball away at certain times but we told them to accept that and they did. We conceded ground when we had to, but we defended brilliantly and at times on the counter-attack, we looked dangerous.
“I thought we were compact. We defended very well when we had to. Losing Georgios was a blow at the time because he was causing Barcelona some problems.
“We had a chance from a header second-half, but you know when you come here there’s going to be a concerted amount of pressure but we just needed to see it out, and there was a bit of luck with their second goal.”
Celtic took an 18th minute lead when Georgios Samaras headed a Charlie Mulgrew free-kick goalwards, and it took a deflection off Javier Mascherano and into the net.
Barca pushed forward in search of an equaliser, and that arrived just before half-time through Andres Iniesta.
“Only Barcelona could score a goal of the quality of the first one – the intricate passing and the pace of the play,” the Celtic boss said.
In the second-half, Fraser Forster produced a string of outstanding saves before the injury-time heartache, and the manager praised the efforts of his team.
“Fraser’s top-class and I think he’ll go really far in the game,” he said. “I said to him he might have to be big for us tonight and more or less in every away game since he’s come in the door he’s been fantastic.
“But as a group, the 14 of them – I can’t speak highly enough of them. We were tiring towards the end. It is physically and mentally demanding, but I thought we’d done enough to see the game out.”