Football/Soccer

Neil Lennon calls on Celtic fans to bring the noise for Europa League clash

Celtic's Ryan Christie (third right) celebrates scoring his side's goal against Hibernian with team-mates during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership at Easter Road, Edinburgh on Saturday September 28, 2019. Picture by Jane Barlow/PA Wire.

NEIL Lennon has asked Celtic fans to turn up the volume in Thursday night's Europa League clash with Cluj at Parkhead.

The Hoops go into matchday two in Group E on the back of a 1-1 Ladbrokes Premiership draw against Hibernian at Easter Road on Saturday, which by the end of the day saw their lead over Rangers at the top reduced to one point.

The title battle will resume next weekend but focus will now shift to the visit of the Romanian outfit to Glasgow.

"Big game, big European night and looking forward to it.

"I hope the supporters are as well and I hope they get right behind the team because they are going to be really important for us,'' Lennon told Celtic's YouTube channel.

"We need to get those European nights up to full decibel levels again so there is a connection and there has been between the players and supporters this season.

"I am really looking forward to the fans making Celtic Park a loud and intimidating place."

After six straight league wins, two dropped points in Leith proved costly for the champions as their Old Firm rivals demolished Aberdeen 5-0 at Ibrox.

Lennon was adamant that referee Kevin Clancy should have awarded the visitors two penalties and the former Celtic captain was in no mood to blame his players.

He said: "I am not disappointed with the performance, just the result.

"I am not going to criticise the players for that performance. We are still unbeaten."

Hibs boss Paul Heckingbottom was also critical of Clancy, who sent him to the stand in the first half for an angry outburst after Ryan Christie's header cancelled out an earlier own goal by defender Kristoffer Ajer.

Heckingbottom claimed everyone at the Easter Road club had been "let down" by the referee, especially when he gave Hoops midfielder Olivier Ntcham a yellow card instead of a red when he raised his hands at Josh Vela.

The draw against Hibs was Celtic's first Ladbrokes Premiership setback of the season.

Celtic failed to build on their equaliser and found the home side resolute in defence to ensure the visitors dropped their first points of the season after six straight wins.

The performance and result will give Hibs some much-needed confidence before both sides meet in the Betfred Cup sem-final at Hampden Park in November.

After making eight changes for the 5-0 win over Championship side Partick Thistle in midweek, former Hibs manager Lennon returned to the side which started against Kilmarnock last weekend with skipper Scott Brown and attackers Essonne Edouard and Christie among the big guns back in the side.

Heckingbottom made two changes with Scott Allan and Adam Jackson back in the side for Daryl Horgan and the suspended Ryan Porteous and he welcomed the boost of the early lead.

Former Hoops midfielder Allan took a fine reverse pass from Jackson to split the visitors' defence with a delivery down the right channel to Doidge and when he fired the ball across goal Ajer inadvertently diverted it past Parkhead keeper Fraser Forster at the near post.

In Celtic's response, Hibs keeper Chris Maxwell blocked an angled-drive from Edouard with his legs before parrying clear a drive from James Forrest.

The champions levelled after Kevin Clancy blew for a foul for a challenge on Forrest by Tom James about 60 yards from the Hibs goal.

With boos from home fans still ringing around the ground, and the Edinburgh side dropping their guard, Celtic right-back Moritz Bauer was sent down the right by midfielder Olivier Ntcham and when he floated a cross into the box Christie rose almost unchallenged to head high past Maxwell.

Heckingbottom was sent packing for his reaction and then Jackson went off with a head knock to be replaced by veteran defender Steven Whittaker.

Celtic midfielder Ntcham was perhaps fortunate to get only a yellow card for raising hands to Josh Vela after a tangle with both players booked.

Forster made saves from Stevie Mallan and Doidge - one either side of the break - as the match occasionally threatened to boil over.

In the 63rd minute Celtic unsuccessfully claimed for a foul when Christie was challenged by Hibs defender Lewis Stevenson inside the box, close to the byline and play raged on.

Edouard headed a cross from substitute Jonny Hayes, on for Ntcham, over the bar before he was replaced by Vakoun Issouf Bayo.

Celtic pressed hard for the winner in the closing stages and in the 84th minute Callum McGregor's shot from 12 yards was plucked out of the air by Maxwell before Hayes, Brown and Bayo all drove efforts over the bar.

Hibernian (1) 1 Celtic (1) 1

Hibernian: Maxwell, James, Jackson (Whittaker 32), Hanlon, Stevenson, Hallberg (Newell 89), Vela, Mallan, Allan, Middleton (Horgan 71), Doidge.

Subs Not Used: Marciano, Kamberi, Shaw, Fraser Murray.

Booked: Vela, Stevenson, Allan.

Goals: Ajer 8 og.

Celtic: Forster, Bauer, Jullien, Ajer, Bolingoli Mbombo, Brown, McGregor, Forrest (Sinclair 84), Ntcham (Hayes 60), Christie, Edouard (Bayo 72).

Subs Not Used: Gordon, Rogic, Elyounoussi, Elhamed.

Booked: Ntcham, Ajer, McGregor, Brown, Bauer.

Goals: Christie 24.

Att: 18,339

Ref: Kevin Clancy (Scotland).

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