Manager blunt in assessment of semi-final defeat
By: Mark Henderson on 28 Jan, 2013 10:32
NEIL Lennon didn’t mince his words in the aftermath of Celtic´s disappointing League Cup semi-final defeat to St Mirren. He was disconsolate, angry and bewildered at his players´ performance.
The Hoops were beaten 3-2 by the Paisley side at Hampden to end their domestic treble hopes. They fell behind to Esmael Goncalves´ goal after a slow start but Gary Hooper levelled matters on the stroke of half-time.
It appeared the game was swinging in Celtic´s direction when they were awarded a penalty shortly after the interval. However, Charlie Mulgrew´s effort was saved by Craig Samson.
The Saints were then awarded a spot-kick at the other end which Paul McGowan converted, and Steven Thompson doubled their advantage with a first-time volley.
Although Mulgrew managed to reduce arrears in added time, it was no more than a consolation goal. And the manager was candid and frank in his assessment of their failings.
"I am bitterly disappointed with that performance," said the Irishman. "It was soul-less. It lacked intensity, desire and a will-to-win.
"It lacked all the attributes that this team has shown over the last six to nine months. I don´t know where that performance came from. We didn’t start the game well, so we changed it after 10 or 15 minutes. We looked better and hit the bar twice – that happens.
"We scored a very good goal, got them in at half-time and looked a lot more like ourselves coming out the second half. We got the penalty and for some reason, Charlie wants to side-foot it when I want him to put his laces through it.
"That was a game-changer, but our reaction was poor from the second and third goals onwards. That was an impersonation of the team that I know. There was not one player, maybe with the exception of Hooper who would have pass marks today.
"Now we have to get ready for another big game on Wednesday. The treble has gone and we only have ourselves to blame. The criticism is going to come our way – and rightly so."
While crestfallen at how his own charges had performed, the Hoops boss was keen to pay credit to St Mirren, and their manager, Danny Lennon, for reaching the final, where they will face Hearts.
"I would like to congratulate Danny and his team, a good guy in the game," he added. "All this talk of records, anything can happen on any given day. When your team doesn’t turn up, there is not a lot you can do about it.
"I don´t want to take a lot away from St Mirren and their day but I can´t be too enthusiastic about our own performance. It seems to be a bogey ground but, to be fair, that´s the worst we have played.
"I could take losing to Kilmarnock in the final and Hearts in the semi-final last year as our performances were decent. That was awful."