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How Celtic were caught in a nous trap by Juve's defenders

MY first thoughts when watching Celtic v Juventus weren't just about how cynical the Italian defenders were.

Gary Hooper is again manhandled in the box but attempts to tough  it out rather than force the referee's hand   Photograph: Nick Ponty
Gary Hooper is again manhandled in the box but attempts to tough it out rather than force the referee's hand Photograph: Nick Ponty

I couldn't believe how honest Celtic's strikers were. Imagine if the roles had been reversed, and it was the Parkhead side's centre-halves who were impeding Juve's strikers like that at corners and set-pieces. The Italians would have been throwing themselves all over the place.

What Stephan Lichtsteiner and co got up to on Tuesday was ridiculous, definitely worthy of a penalty or a dismissal, and I can't understand why Gary Hooper went toe to toe with them in a strength battle.

If Celtic's front men had given them a half-yard of movement, forced them to try to grab them, then thrown themselves down, they could have made up the referee's mind. He has probably got 16, 17, players inside the box to look at so you have to find a way to get his attention.

I'm not blaming Hooper, I just think he could have done more to highlight it. Instead he made it easier for the referee not to see it. Celtic changed things a bit, moving Hooper away from the goalkeeper's area and putting Scott Brown in there after Hooper had been booked, but these guys aren't kids like James Forrest, these are men with a bit of savvy and experience.

If the Celtic players had shown a bit more game intelligence to get themselves on the deck it couldn't have been seen as a dive because they were practically getting rugby tackled.

I never played against Italian opposition, but I experienced all sorts of marking at set-pieces. I have spoken before about a Rangers v Kilmarnock game where Ally McCoist – my Scotland team-mate at the time – was detailed to mark me at a corner, and threw an elbow at me as if it was accidental, leaving me waiting for an apology that never came.

The other one was Ally Mauchlen of Hearts, whose idea of man-marking during a Dundee v Hearts game was pulling my shirt or my hair, nipping me, and punching me between the legs during open play and at set-pieces.

Tuesday was probably the worst recent example I have seen but you have to make the best of it. And that means highlighting it more.

Celtic have asked Fifa and Uefa for clarification and I think the Parkhead club are right to take it further. We can't just let this happen. It is up there with diving.

Something has to be set in stone because we have heard it so many times that referees are cracking down on contact in the box. But somehow it is always relaxed again. It has to be highlighted over and over, with a reminder every couple of months, because defenders are still trying to gain an advantage in the penalty area.

Celtic were very unlucky to lose 3-0, I think everyone would say that. I know hindsight is a wonderful thing but if Neil Lennon had his chance again, I wonder if he would go with a more cautious approach.

We all know there were defensive mistakes, and they had injuries, but I thought he might have gone for a stronger, more solid team just to keep the tie alive.

I'd never criticise Neil for picking Efe Ambrose, who was on a high, and I wouldn't just blame him alone for the goals. For the first one Kelvin Wilson was 20 yards too wide, in front of Ambrose, and if he had reacted more quickly he'd probably have cleared it four yards before the line.

Kris Commons got caught up in it all when he blamed Ambrose for making himself available. I think Kris would have come in the next day, apologised, and said he didn't mean it to come out that way.

As for the second leg, there is still respectability and pride to play for. Anything Celtic can get is a bonus. It would be great if they could put a bit of pressure on by getting a goal but Italian teams don't lose by three. The tie is done. The one thing you don't want to do against Italian teams is chase and Celtic got into that position after three minutes.

KENNY Shiels has said he is going to change but on the evidence of midweek in Inverness a leopard can't alter his spots.

Whether he is right or wrong, has a point or is just going off on one, it all comes from the heart but if the Kilmarnock manager doesn't stop he will end up being suspended for more games than Dave Bowman.

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