MOI ELYOUNOUSSI has defended Celtic manager Neil Lennon and says the players must accept more responsibility for their abject title defence.

Elyounoussi’s stunning goal against Livingston on Wednesday night wasn’t enough to secure a win for a Celtic side who have failed to taste victory in their last four fixtures, and who sit 20 points behind Rangers with two games now left in hand.

But the attacker says that those calling for the manager’s head are letting the players off the hook, and that they must shoulder much of the blame for their poor campaign.

“It is a team sport,” said Elyounoussi.

“It is always easy to talk about the manager or whatever. We are all a part of this. We need to stick together more than before.

“When I look to my left and to my right and see the players I have all around me, I see a lot of quality there. We just need to get it out on the pitch. I see it every day in training, I see it every day from the coaching staff, how much they push us.

“I think it is way too easy to just go for him and say that we need a change. I think he does a really good job with the motivational speeches he gives us before and after games. He is a strong guy and it is way too easy to blame him.

“I feel really bad for him and the rest of the coaching staff. I think that we personally have to take more responsibility as well and go out and perform.

“It is easy to criticise the gaffer. When things don’t go well they are coming for him. But if you look at him and the rest of the coaching staff, they are working really hard, day and night.

“That makes me really disappointed, that we cannot turn it around for him and obviously the fans as well. So, yeah, I feel for him. But he must be one of the strongest guys I have ever met. He is a strong guy and he is working hard for us to turn it around. Of course we have belief in him.

“[Criticism] is a part of the game. But, like I said, he must be one of the strongest guys I have met, facing all this. One thing is for sure, he is working really hard. He is still pushing us to our limits.

“We need to respond, we need to give him even more. The players need to take more responsibility as well. It is not always on the coaches, it is on us as well. We need to dig in deeper, fight more for the points.

“Everyone has to take responsibility, look at themselves in the mirror. Everyone can improve, everyone can put more effort in.”

Elyounoussi says that there can be no excuses for Celtic’s form despite the disrupted nature of their season so far, and that the time has come for some frank truths to be acknowledged.

“Look, it hasn’t been a normal season with the pandemic and everything going around,” he said. “There have been things outside football, like our self-isolation. But it is the same for everyone, everyone is in the same situation. So that is no excuse.

“We have to be honest here, we cannot look for excuses any more. Everyone needs to pick themselves up, dig in deeper and work hard. There is always the next game. We have to keep looking forward and approach every game with positivity.”

Elyounoussi’s own form has been one of the small chinks of light for Celtic this term, with his wonderfully-taken volley on Wednesday night his 14th goal of the campaign. It is scant consolation for the Norwegian though, who places a greater premium on what his team take from any match than on his own personal performance.

“I don’t mean any disrespect, but I don’t care about scoring a goal or whatever,” he said.

“If you don’t win the games it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t give me anything to be honest.”