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Neil Lennon hails Celtic character after draw in Lille

Neil Lennon File Photo
(Image credit: Jane Barlow)

Neil Lennon praised his Celtic side’s character after battling to a 2-2 draw with Lille in their Europa League encounter at the Stade Pierre Mauroy.

The Scottish champions had lost at home to Old Firm rivals Rangers and then AC Milan in their first Group H fixture before drawing 3-3 with Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday.

However,  Celtic raced into a two-goal lead against the highly-rated French side through attacker Mohamed Elyounossi who scored twice in a four-minute spell in the first half.

Hoops keeper Scott Bain, preferred to Vasilis Barkas, saved a Jonathan David penalty five minutes before the break but defender Zeki Celik pulled a goal back for Lille in 67th minute and Jonathan Ikone levelled to leave Celtic with one point from six with back-to-back matches against Sparta Prague to come next month.

Lennon, who revealed Kristoffer Ajer will be a doubt for Sunday’s William Hill Scottish Cup semi-final against Aberdeen at Hampden Park after coming off injured in the second half, said: “There has been nothing wrong with the confidence.

“We felt that we played really well in the second half against AC Milan.

“We then scored three goals away from home last weekend and didn’t get what we deserved.

“Now we have come away with a positive result here, even though it could have been better.

“I didn’t see too much lack of confidence tonight at all, in fact I thought we were very positive for the majority of the game. We looked a good side.

“I think some of them need to get a little bit fitter. But they can only do that by getting more game time into their legs.

“But I’m delighted with the character the team showed tonight.”

Bain kept his place with Greece keeper Barkas on the bench after recovering from a back problem and Lennon said: “I was delighted with Scott. I thought he was excellent.

“We felt really aggrieved at the penalty decision.

“But Scott made a great save and a couple of good saves in the first half.

“Everything he did he handled well.

“Moi scored two beauties – the first is great pressing from  (Albian) Ajeti with Moi taking it on and scoring a pearler.

“It’s a great goal the second where Jeremie Frimpong shows great composure and it’s a great finish.

“I just wish he had pulled the trigger second half on the counter attack when it opened up for us on two occasions.

“He just wanted to take that extra touch when the shot was on.

“On a couple of occasions towards the end on the counter we could have picked them off better.

“It’s frustrating not to have won the game, but that says a lot when you’ve come here and you’re disappointed not to win.”

On Ajer, who had to be replaced by Nir Bitton in the 51st minute when Celtic were leading 2-0, the Northern Irishman said: “Ajer felt his groin go so it’s not great,  by the looks of things.

“We’ll have to see how long he’s going to be out for. But I would think he’s a doubt for Sunday.”