Manager Neil Lennon admits Celtic “need a miracle” after being taught a harsh lesson in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Juventus in Glasgow.
Despite a hugely creditable performance which saw them dominate the Italian champions for much of the game, Celtic were punished for their occasional defensive lapses as they went down 3-0.
That scoreline effectively ends the tie as a meaningful contest, as Lennon acknowledged.
“We need a miracle,” he said after the game. “But it’s the harsh reality of Champions League football and some of my young players will learn a huge lesson tonight.
“I thought for 70-odd minutes, until the second goal, we were by far the better side - but you can’t give away goals like we gave away, sloppy.”
Alessandro Matri opened the scoring in the third minute after a calamitous error by Efe Ambrose, just back from African Nations Cup duty with winners Nigeria, and Claudio Marchisio and Mirko Vucinic killed the game off in the final quarter-hour.
“Efe was poor for the first goal but we had good chances to equalise,” said Lennon.
“Then we switched off defensively for the second goal and the third goal was poor.”
One legitimate objection Lennon could have was over the way Juventus - and Stephane Lichtsteiner in particular - defended corners. The Swiss player was booked after tangling with Gary Hooper but continued grappling with the striker and also Ambrose and Scott Brown.
“I’d like to ask the referee, is the game different in Spain or Italy?” Lennon said.
“Every time one of my players tried to move he was held. He should have given a penalty on at least two occasions.”
Juve striker Alessandro Matri rocked the Hoops with a third-minute goal only for Neil Lennon’s side to battle back ferociously in a breathless encounter where, at times, the visiting penalty box resembled a wrestling ring.
However, despite their best efforts, the Scottish champions were hit by a sucker-punch in the 76th minute when midfielder Claudio Marchisio grabbed a second on the counter before striker Mirko Vucinic grabbed a third in the 83rd minute.
Celtic were in control for much of the game but this result almost certainly ends the Hoops’ European involvement for the season.