Mar 6, 2013, 7:30 AM EDT
Juventus is up 3-0 over Celtic ahead of the teams’ second leg in Turin, and while miracles can happen, nobody’s going to chide you for assuming this one’s done and dusted. The Italian champions have only given up three goals at home once in since Jan. 2011, a game in which they still managed to score a goal. Celtic would have to better that result (by Internazionale on Nov. 3) to make it to the quarterfinals.
And while it would be tedious to focus on that improbability in the lead up to today’s Champions League eliminato., we’ve somehow found an even more tiresome topic: Complaining about officiating.
After the first leg in Glasgow, Celtic was irate that Juventus defenders were allowed to be so physical while defending corner kicks. At one point, the game stalled as Celtic players incredulously appeared to Alberto Undiano to stop wing back Stephan Lichsteiner’s holding on set pieces.
The Italians left Glasgow with a 3-0 victory from the first leg three weeks ago but also having sparked fierce debate over their glaring, grappling tactics when defending corners. Celtic’s ire over the approach of Juventus was so great that they took their complaints to Uefa, the European game’s ruling body.
Celtic coach Neil Lennon:
“[Celtic's chief executive] Peter Lawwell said we will get a call from Uefa but we haven’t had anything yet,” Lennon added. “I am disappointed but is it really a surprise? We have a Turkish referee now – I don’t know what Turkish referees are like but I hope he is stronger than the Spanish one.
“All I want is for him to do his job and I don’t think [Undiano] did his job properly in the first leg. I don’t think I’ve seen it as blatant as that, ever. It was just so galling.”
Galling enough to stay on his mind for three weeks, apparently.
Juventus’s first leg tactics would still be in focus regardless of the score, but with Celtic given almost no chance of advancing, it seems to be the only thing on anybody’s mind.
And we can’t just place this blame on Lennon. Somebody’s asking him these questions. He’s just saying what he thinks. Sure, it’s a little weird that he’s holding on to what happened in Glasgow, but certainly there’s something else we can talk about.
(And yes, I realize the irony of talking about what I don’t want to talk about. That’s criticism for you.)
More from Lennon:
“I’m not expecting to win the game three or four nil but I’d like to win it 1-0, 2-1 – if we could do that it would be a fantastic achievement again.
“Is the tie beyond us? I’m a realist. It will take a minor miracle but miracles do happen sometimes.
Consider the contrast in his comments. On one hand (regarding set pieces), Lennon’s resorted to typical coach speak. Oh, this is outrageous, even though that kind of cynical defending is pretty common. But about his team’s second leg chances, he’s being more honest than most, saying he’d be happy with a result that would eliminate his club from Champions League.
Lennonian dualism – so much more interesting than dwelling on officials.
As for Antonio Conte’s part, he’s taking Lennon’s complaints in stride.
“If Lennon complains about the referees perhaps he is a coach who can come [to] Italy because here we all complain.
Barring a complete collapse, Juventus is going through. If they can do so without aggravating Neil Lennon, our soccer coverage will be better off.
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