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Celtic form is bittersweet for Lennon after exit from Europe

Neil Lennon has admitted to feeling regret that his Celtic team have shown their best form of the season only after crashing out of the Champions League last month.

The SPFL will contact Celtic after supporters threw smoke bombs
The SPFL will contact Celtic after supporters threw smoke bombs

A 5-0 rout of Motherwell last night came only days after the 7-0 William Hill Scottish Cup rampage at Hearts, with Celtic stretching their lead to five points in the SPFL Premiership at Fir Park and also their unbeaten league run to 14 games.

"We always felt they had it in them," said Lennon. "It's a shame it's taken going out of the Champions League to start seeing them really at their best. We can concentrate on domestic duties once Barcelona are out of the way but this will set them up to give it a go [at Camp Nou]."

Celtic are already out of Europe and certain to finish bottom of Group H behind Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax, and they complete their Champions League campaign in Spain next Wednesday. "It's different at that level," said Lennon. "It's a bit early for this team to be trying to qualify in a group as strong as that, but you can see what they're capable of. If they play together a little bit longer then we're looking at next year to maybe forge another attempt.

"I don't know where the form has come from. They're just finding their real top form, that some of them have maybe been lacking in the first couple of months of the season. Once we got the second goal it could have been anything. It shows the level they can rise to; they are all at the top of their game at the minute. The pace, intensity and concentration they're playing at is where we want them to be."

Kris Commons scored twice and Anthony Stokes and Bahrudin Atajic were also on target but Lennon was especially pleased for Efe Ambrose, who scored the second goal. He joined the squad late in the afternoon after his wife gave birth to a baby girl yesterday and then the Nigerian internationalist watched his country be drawn with Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran in their World Cup finals group.

"It's been a Carlsberg day for Efe," said Lennon. "Days don't come much better than that. He's a fantastic professional, one of the best I've had the luck to work with."

After the game a Motherwell official said the club would contact Celtic directly after around 20-30 seats were broken in the away end. Smoke bombs and firecrackers had been discharged from the same section before and during the game, which will lead to the SPFL asking Celtic to explain the supporters' behaviour.

Stuart McCall, the Motherwell manager, praised his side's defending in the first half but admitted they had been outclassed once the goals began. "Some of their play was from a team full of confidence, flicks and tricks; we couldn't lay a glove on them," he said. "We won't be against a side like that many times. That's probably as strong as they can be. We've got to remind each other that we've not only got good players but a good spine in that dressing room."

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