Lennon is baffled by Celtic travel sickness

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The Independent Online

The Celtic captain, Neil Lennon, remains perplexed as to why the Parkhead side failed yet again to perform away from home in the group stages of the Champions' League.

The Hoops' 3-0 capitulation at the hands of Benfica at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday night kept intact their dubious record of never having won away from Celtic Park in 11 attempts at this stage of the tournament.

The margin of defeat mirrored several other heavy beatings in the past - against Porto in 2001-02 and Shakhtar Donetsk two seasons ago. Gordon Strachan's side are still two points ahead of the Portuguese side and Copenhagen, who came into contention to qualify for the last 16 by surprisingly beating Manchester United in Denmark.

The Hoops take on United at home in their next game before finishing up with a trip to Denmark where they may finally have to discard their shocking away record if they are to reach the knockout stages of the tournament.

Lennon tried to explain this most recent European defeat, saying: "You try and prepare things the best you can, but it's a different ball game when you go away from home, it's a different psyche.

"But we just never got out of the traps for the first 20 minutes and we found ourselves 2-0 down and chasing the game. In terms of the history we've had in this competition away from home, it was very reminiscent of Porto four or five years ago.

"You can't make the start that we did. We were sloppy, a wee bit nervous and that's understandable. We tried to settle down and get a bit of a game going, but we came up against a better team.

"We hoped that we would get a positive result, but there is no shame or disgrace, it just wasn't our night. So we just have to get back to what we are good at. We had nine wins in a row before the Benfica game and we have to get back to that level of performance. The result in Copenhagen means the group is still wide open, so it makes it really interesting."

Celtic's latest European defeat away from home was due mainly to a nightmare first half for defender Gary Caldwell who helped the Portuguese club to take a two-goal lead from which the Hoops never recovered.

The Scotland international scored an own goal after just 10 minutes and then a long kick by Benfica goalkeeper Quim 12 minutes later bounced off Caldwell's head to allow the grateful Nuno Gomes the chance to grab a second.

Substitute Andrei Karyaka scored the third in the 76th minute to cap off a miserable night for the visitors.

Lennon shared Strachan's belief that the blame for the depressing result should not be placed solely on the shoulders of the Scotland international.

He said: "Gary is a good professional and it could have happened to any of us. We made mistakes all over the park, from number one to 11. Nobody is pointing the finger at Gary. He will be hurting more than anyone else, and it's a learning curve for a lot of these guys.

"It's the first time that some have played in the Champions' League. You have got to be resolute all over the pitch, but we didn't get a hold of the ball and pass it and we didn't defend well enough.

"There are two big mountains to go, but if we get a positive result from one of those games we might still make it."

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