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Lennon: Juventus were a class above

ESPN staff
March 6, 2013 « Reports swirl over Rooney future at Utd | Chartbeat test »
Celtic could not find a way through against Juventus during either leg © PA Photos
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Celtic boss Neil Lennon said his team had been outclassed over two legs by Juventus but claimed both he and his players have learnt valuable lessons from their Champions League crusade.

Juve won 2-0 in Turin thanks to goals from Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella to move into the quarter finals with an emphatic aggregate scoreline of 5-0.

Lennon had no complaints about the result but praised his team for getting into the last 16 of Europe's premier club competition.

"Quality counts at the end of the day,'' Lennon told Sky Sports. "Our finishing at times let us down, our build-up play was very good but it's about execution.

"(Efe) Ambrose had a great chance with a header before half-time [in the first leg] that would have made it 1-1 and who knows what would have happened. On the night class tells in the end and that's what's happened in the two games.''

Lennon cast doubt on how many of his current squad will still be at the club next season, perhaps a result of the potential they have shown in Europe.

"I hope they've learned a lot as they move on in their careers. They've done the club proud and tonight I'm proud to be the manager here in this fantastic arena. I hope these young guys will blossom from this experience. But last-16 is cut throat and Juventus beat us.''

Asked about the summer transfer window, he added: "It's going to be a big ask (to keep them all). It's hard to stop progression... We'll see what the summer brings. There'll be players who want to progress their careers and it's a progression for us too. We want to bring in players, develop them and sell them on, so far that strategy's worked for us.''

Asked about his own memories of the Champions League campaign, he added: "Winning in Moscow was very special and the two games against Barcelona were titanic, coinciding with the club's anniversary it was very emotional.''

Georgios Samaras echoed Lennon's calls and said the club's young players would benefit from the experience.

"I would say that it was a great experience for all the lads,'' he told Sky Sports. "We're a young team with a lot of talent, and that's an experience we'll learn from.

"I think it was a great journey for everyone in the club, the players, the coaches, staff and supporters, they've enjoyed it from the first second to the last. Next year hopefully we'll be back in the Champions League.''

The odds were always stacked against Celtic on the night but Samaras kept the result in perspective.

"We're playing against a great team in the round of 16, it's a big thing for us,'' he said. "We tried to play attacking football, to press them high like we did in the first half and we had a couple of chances but we didn't take them.

"But I didn't see any negative things in the game. We keep the positive things and keep learning.''

Celtic exceeded expectations by coming this far, and Samaras believes the memories of a campaign that included victory over Barcelona and a double against Spartak Moscow will stay with the club for a long time.

"We're trying really hard all together to be a successful team,'' Samaras said. "The highlights of this journey were the two games against Barcelona, the way we played, the heart we showed was something amazing, not only for the players but also the supporters and the club. We'll remember these games for many years.''

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