Celtic's coach defends Ambrose’s performance against Juventus

The Nigerian defender rushed back to Glasgow to help his club in the Champions League but jet lag exposed him

After the 3-0 drubbing received from Juventus on Tuesday and the criticisms that followed Neil Lennon’s inclusion of Ambrose Efe in the starting line-up against Juventus, the Celtic coach has come out to defend that inclusion by saying he almost had no other choice.

Ambrose got back to Glasgow on Tuesday morning after helping Nigeria win the Nations Cup on Sunday in South Africa and the effects of the 16-hour flight clearly showed in the defender’s performance.

"We needed pace [Ambrose] at the back because [Alessandro] Matri and [Mirko] Vucinic have great pace,” Lennon told the Daily Mail.

"You always question decisions and in hindsight maybe it was a bit of a gamble.

"Efe was caught for the first goal but that was nothing to do with tiredness.  Once he got over that he was fine. There was no sign of any tiredness when he then got in and should have scored.

Ambrose had a chance to level the tie in the 62nd minute from a Charlie Mulgrew cross but he headed straight at Gianluigi Buffon and Lennon conceded that if he had scored that goal, it may have acted as a fillip to the team.

“We needed a goal and Efe had the chance at the header. If that goes in the tie is live.

“At 1-0 the tie was alive anyway but if Efe equalises it would really have galvanised us but it wasn’t to be. The second goal burst the bubble.

“Maybe as the game progressed he tired towards the end, but after losing Mikael Lustig we had no alternative but to keep Efe on,” Lennon concluded.

Celtic now need an absolute miracle to make it into the quarter finals with the second leg coming up on March 6 at the Juventus Stadium in Turin.