NEIL Lennon accused Neymar of playacting and defended captain Scott Brown after the red card which left Celtic outgunned and unable to deny Barcelona a Champions League a win at Parkhead.
Brown fouled the Brazilian and then gave him a sly kick, which was spotted by French referee Stephane Lannoy and punished with a red card. The fans howled at Neymar for making the most of the incident, but going down to 10 men in the 59th minute left Celtic with too much to do. It had been goalless until then but Cesc Fabregas found a way through 14 minutes from time. Celtic are bottom of Group H after defeats by AC Milan and Barcelona. They face Ajax home, then away, on October 22 and November 6.
Lennon admitted they would need at least four, possibly six, points from those games but his immediate focus was on the Brown red card. "I think it's very soft. I think if there was any contact it was minimal. There was a lot more going on in the game that merited heavier punishment. It was a game-changing decision. It's very difficult playing against Barcelona with 11 players, with 10 it's even more difficult. We played very, very well tonight.
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"I didn't think the initial tackle was a severe one. It's a physical game and I don't think Neymar does himself any favours the way he behaves at times. Our fans are respectful of great players. Andres Iniesta walked off to a standing ovation from the Celtic support. After the incident Neymar got booed every time he touched the ball. I don't think I need to apologise to Neymar or justify my defence of my captain. I think the sending off was uncalled-for and unnecessary."
Brown had also conceded the free-kick from which AC Milan scored their second goal on matchday one. Lennon was asked if he had given the referee a decision to make with the kick. "Possibly. It's a debatable point. But I don't think there's very much in it. There's no question it's a foul, but the reaction certainly didn't merit it. The referee was going to book Scott for the initial foul. The tap, if you want to call it that, he's sent him off for: is it violent play, or dangerous play? I'm not so sure."
Celtic competed well in a relatively uneventful match until the red card. James Forrest then had an effort saved by Victor Valdes and Charlie Mulgrew missed a header, before three remarkable late saves by Fraser Forster denied Barcelona a second goal. The result was their first home defeat in a group game since the Catalans also won in Glasgow in 2004. "I thought that our shape was good, I thought we limited Barcelona to very few chances up until the sending off. The game got stretched at the end and our goalkeeper made some great saves when we were trying to get back into the game. At 11 v 11 I was really happy, particularly in that spell after half-time. But we're talking about the best footballing team in the world here."
Ajax and AC Milan drew 1-1 to leave Celtic bottom of the group. "The double-header with Ajax is crucial if we have any aspirations to qualify," said Lennon. "Can we take four points or maximum points? It's important we win the next game and get points on the board to go to Amsterdam in a positive frame of mind. We will have to capitalise on the chances we create, because we are creating chances."