Glasgow Celtic manager Neil Lennon has criticised Barcelona’s Neymar for his role in Scott Brown’s dismissal, during last night’s Champions League tie.
Celtic captain Brown was shown a red card by referee Stephane Lannoy for an apparent kick at the Brazillian, in the 59th minute.
The match was decided by a 75th minute header from Cesc Fabregas; yet Celtic was left fuming after the controversial sending off.
While Brown’s initial foul was a clear yellow card, whether or not there was any intended malice or contact thereafter was unclear. Yet Neymar’s reaction seemed to convince the French referee that another grievous offence had been committed.
“There’s no question it was a foul,” said Lennon in the post-match interview. “The referee was going to book Scott for the initial foul. Then the tap, if you want to call it that – is it dangerous play? I’m not so sure.”
Celtic had managed to contain and limit Barcelona’s opportunities for the majority of the encounter, and where understandably frustrated following Brown’s red card.
“The sending-off is uncalled for and unnecessary. It’s very soft. I have looked at it; if there was any contact it was minimal,” continued Lennon.
“I don’t think Neymar does himself any favours by the way he behaves at times.”
Wigan and ex-Celtic defender Gary Caldwell was equally scathing of the Brazillian’s behaviour.
“I think the sending-off was harsh. He had a little flick out at Neymar and the frustrating thing is that he gave the referee a decision to make,” he said on bbc.co.uk.
“Neymar sucked the referee in. A few Barcelona players went down very easily and make the most of every situation, and it cost Celtic the game.”
Neymar – who arrived at the Camp Nou in the summer for a reported fee of £48.6 million – was booed and jeered for every touch by the Celtic crowd following the dismissal.
Lennon felt that this reaction was fitting for the Brazillian’s behaviour:
“Our supporters are very respectful of great players. Andres Iniesta walks off the pitch to a standing ovation from the Celtic support. Neymar, after the incident, gets booed every time he touches the ball by our support.”
Celtic did appear to rally for a short period after the dismissal, yet Fabregas’ strike was enough for the Catalan giants to leave with all three points.
Charlie Mulgrew came close in the 74th minute with a headed effort off a Kris Commons corner, but failed to hit the target. The defender would later rue the missed opportunity.
“After going down to ten men early in the second half it’s always going to be an uphill battle, but I thought we defended really well at times. If we had taken our chances it might have been different,” said Mulgrew.
Match-winner Fabregas praised the resilience and effort of the Celtic side, after the match, but was pleased with the performance from his side:
“Celtic are a team that demand so much from you but we played a good game. It was a complete match from our point of view; probably the most complete of the entire season.”
Barcelona manager Gerado Martino was pleased with the performance and result, and echoed Fabregas’ comments:
“We played a complete game with consistency over the 90 minutes. I agree with Cesc Fàbregas who said it was perhaps our most complete game of the season in terms of how we performed as a team.”
Martino was also pleased with the side’s ability to manage without the injured Lionel Messi, and in the hostile atmosphere of Celtic Park.
“It’s impossible not to miss Messi. There are times, in situations like these, that we have to stand up, look to put in a good display and look to win. That’s pretty much what we did tonight,” he said.
Barcelona are now top of Group H, with 6 points, while Celtic remain winless and last, following a 1-1 draw between Ajax and AC Milan in Amsterdam last night.