NEIL LENNON praised his young guns despite the defeat at the hands of Cluj in their Europa League dead rubber last night, as Karamoko Dembele became the youngest player to turn out for Celtic in Europe.

The 16-year-old came on as a second-half substitute, while 18-year-old midfielder Scott Robertson impressed on his senior debut in midfield.

Lennon didn’t put too much stock in the 2-0 defeat with a host of first-team regulars left behind in Scotland, but he did draw positives from the mature showings of the academy graduates.

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“We think very highly of [Dembele],” said Lennon. “But that milestone wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. Obviously, I wanted to give him some experience and I want to keep him around the first team squad because I think he’s a real talent.

“For him to get that little bit of experience at this level, allied to Scott’s performance tonight, delighted me.

“I thought it was a superb debut for an 18-year-old to come into that environment and play so maturely, with a lot of composure as well.

“Obviously we’re disappointed to lose the game but in the main I’m very pleased with what I got out of the game in terms of some of my players needing the game.

“My only criticism of the performance was while we played very well first half, I thought we were very passive at the start of the second half and I was very disappointed we conceded from a set play.

“But overall we’ve had an amazing campaign and I’m very happy to have used the squad tonight because we have so many important domestic games coming up.”

Lennon was also impressed by the performance of one of the more experienced players in his squad, with Leigh Griffiths looking sharp.

“I thought Griffiths did very well,” he said. “I didn’t think we got enough decent service to him at times. We were a little bit overpassing it in the final third.

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“When we did get a good ball in, he managed to get a header in.

“I thought his touch was good, I thought his work rate was good.

“And I think that 90 minutes will stand him in good stead because he’s an asset, there’s no question of that.

“He can be very pleased.”