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Lennon fumes over elbow but admits Celtic were second best

The Celtic manager says Jon Flanagan should have been sent off for elbowing Scott Brown.

Lennon says the champions need to rebuild this summer.
Lennon says the champions need to rebuild this summer. SNS Group

Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes Jon Flanagan should have been sent off for elbowing Scott Brown at Ibrox and says referee Kevin Clancy's decision was "unacceptable".

Rangers were relatively untroubled as they won 2-0 with goals from James Tavernier and Scott Arfield but Flanagan was involved in the game's most controversial moment when he appeared to elbow Brown in the face and was shown a yellow card by Clancy.

Lennon insisted that there was no option but to dismiss the Rangers defender, though he was at pains to state that it was no excuse for his own side's performance, which he thought was "flat".

"It's a red card," Lennon said. " Why the referee hasn't given that as a red card, I don't know. 

"It's an elbow into his face. Their bench is shouting "It's him again" but it's a clear elbow into his face.

"Jon's got his hands up first of all, Browny's trying to get away and then he elbows him in the jaw.

"It's a straight red card. It's totally unacceptable and unacceptable for the referee not to give a red card.

"Now, I'm not distracting away from the rest of the game where we were second best but the laws of the game are that it's a red card. You can dress it up any way you want but if you elbow somebody in the face, you're off. They've got away with one now.

"Maybe it's because it's Browny again, I don't know. But let's not get away from the fact that we were flat today and deserved to lose the game."

'The hungrier team won today and I think that's the biggest criticism I can lay at the players' feet.'
Neil Lennon

Lennon couldn't put his finger on a reason for Celtic's lacklustre performance but said he had made it clear to the players that it wasn't good enough for such a high-profile game.

"Poor. Very poor," he said. "We lacked energy, desire and quality.

"The hungrier team won today and I think that's the biggest criticism I can lay at the players' feet. The hungrier team won.

"We looked flat and we looked like we were just fulfilling a fixture today. It's not good enough."

Despite having wrapped up the title last week and being on course for a third domestic treble, the manager claimed there were problems with a lack of quality in the squad that would have to be addressed in the summer.

"It's a rebuilding job, I've known that since day one," he said. "I think the lack of depth in the squad has been apparent for quite a while now.

"Again, it manifested itself today. There was a real lack of quality. We've known that for quite a while.

"We've got a cup final to look forward to. We're disappointed with today but we know what's at stake in the next couple of weeks for us. It's important we don't let anything get in the way of that.

"I had to tell the players that whether I'm here or not next year, the performance just isn't good enough for a derby."

And while Lennon waits for news of whether he will continue as manager beyond the end of the season, he said he didn't feel the derby defeat would have a significant bearing on any decision.

"I've no idea," he said. "I wouldn't have thought so. 

"We've come through a number of big games recently, quarter-finals, semi-finals, league games, got the title won last week and we've got a cup final to look forward to. 

"Maybe I'll know after that."

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