Neil Lennon wants Celtic to be shown more respect after matching Benfica
Celtic 0 Benfica 0
Thursday 20 September 2012
Neil Lennon hopes Celtic gained “a bit more respect” throughout Europe after drawing 0-0 with Benfica in their Champions League Group G opener at Parkhead.
Only captain Scott Brown had Champions League experience with the home side but it was a spirited and determined performance from the Scottish champions although over the course of 90 hard-fought minutes they failed to really trouble the visitors' goal.
The Celtic manager, though, noted that key players such as Georgios Samaras, Joe Ledley, Beram Kayal and Anthony Stokes were all still making their way back from injury and Gary Hooper was unable to start the match after picking up a knock at St Johnstone.
"I hope that we gained a little bit more respect tonight from the footballing world," said Lennon. "I think Benfica went into the game heavy favourites but I don't think you could call the game tonight. I think a draw was probably a fair result.
"It shows that we have a bit of depth to the squad and can compete at this level. We didn't work their keeper as much as we would have liked but, saying that, I was very pleased with the team performance tonight. It was a very good tempo, a good shape to us, we were committed and played with real zest and no fear against a class side.
"It was a decent start for us, it could have been better, it could have been worse. I think they will probably be the happier going away, I don't think there was anything really between the teams. There were 10 guys out there making their Champions League debut against a very experienced Champions League side so I am very proud of them."
Celtic play Spartak Moscow away from home in their next fixture and Lennon said: "You would like to win your home games, it makes things a little difficult for us but it is not insurmountable."
The Benfica manager, Jorge Jesus, did not concur with Lennon's assessment of the match. "We deserved victory," he said. "I have said before that Benfica, Celtic and Spartak will fight hard but they [Celtic] did not take advantage tonight."
Celtic Forster; Matthews, Wilson, Mulgrew, Lustig (Rogne 63); Commons, Wanyama, Brown, Izaguirre (Hooper 66); Forrest, Fedor.
Benfica Artur; Almeida, Garay, Jardel, Melgarejo; Matic, Aimar (Cardozo 63), Perez; Gaitan (Nolito 83), Salvio, Rodrigo (Cesar 70).
Referee N Rizzoli (Italy).
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