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Celtic humbled by Utrecht
Celtic crashed out of the Europa League as Utrecht ran riot to seal their own place in the group stages after staging a remarkable comeback in the tie.

A 2-0 advantage from the first leg at Parkhead was wiped out in a devasting seven-minute spell which saw Ricky van Wolfswinkel net twice from the penalty spot before completing his hat-trick early in the second half.

Barry Maguire then completed the rout on the night as Celtic's dismal away record in Europe continued, with just one win in 28 games on the road now.

Cha Du-Ri recovered from the injury that kept him out of the weekend win over St Mirren to take his place in the side for tonight's clash in Holland, while fellow casualty Glenn Loovens was named on the bench.

James Forrest made his first European start for Celtic after retaining his place in the team following Sunday's 4-0 win, while Jos Hooiveld was also in the starting line-up after missing the first leg through suspension.

There had been heavy rainfall all day and the slick surface was causing a few problems for both sides early on, but Utrecht still managed to make an impressive start to the game.

They had the chance to pile on the pressure when Dries Mertens stepped up for a free-kick just outside the box but goalkeeper Lukasz Zaluska did well to punch to safety.

However, Celtic found themselves trailing with just 11 minutes gone when Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo ruled that Michael Silberbauer was fouled in the box by Hooiveld. Van Wolfswinkel ably converted from the spot despite Zaluska getting a hand to the effort.

The Hoops' advantage from the first leg was gone completely seven minutes later when the referee pointed to the spot again, this time for Zaluska's challenge on Mertens. Again, van Wolfswinkel stepped up for the penalty and this time slotted low into the corner.

Celtic appeared shell-shocked by their dreadful start to the game but had a chance to haul themselves back into the match when Efrain Juarez picked out Marc-Antoine Fortune. But his effort from just outside the box was poor and dipped well over the crossbar.

Utrecht still looked more likely to leave the net bulging again and were only denied a third goal by the woodwork when a volley from Mertens crashed off the crossbar five minutes before the break.

Neil Lennon no doubt urged his players to regain their composure and set about claiming an early goal in the second half but Celtic were dealt a massive blow when Utrecht struck again a minute after the restart.

Nana Asare was allowed to embark upon a surging run before picking out Edouard Duplan and he played the ball into the path of van Wolfswinkel, who rifled high into the top corner to complete his hat-trick.

With Utrecht now leading the tie, Celtic made their first change a few minutes later when skipper Scott Brown was withdrawn from the action and replaced by Shaun Maloney, but hopes of resurrecting the tie were growing more futile.

The Celtic defence were having a torrid time against their rampant hosts and there appeared to be no way back for the Glasgow giants with 62 minutes gone when the ball broke for substitute Maguire and he lashed into the back of the net with a powerful strike from distance.

Van Wolfswinkel could have added to his tally when he found himself in plenty of space and had a go only to see his shot fizz narrowly past the upright.

At the other end, Paddy McCourt picked out Cha at the back post but his header fell harmlessly past the upright, with the largely unworked Michel Vorm untroubled by the effort.

Fortune then fared no better with a feeble shot with time rapidly running out, as Celtic saw their European adventure brought to an end by an impressive display from the Dutch outfit.

# Lennon laid low by defeat

Celtic manager Neil Lennon admits the Europa League exit at the hands of Utrecht was just as bad as their infamous shock defeat to Ross County in the Active Nation Scottish Cup last season.

''It feels as bad as Ross County, yeah,'' he said. ''We had a decent advantage and we only needed to score one goal. But it's the overall performance, we were second best in just about every area really.

''The first penalty was soft and for the second we shot ourselves in the foot. We've gone one down and just need to weather it and we get one goal and win the game. But we never gave ourselves a chance.

''Refereeing decisions? I'm not going to go on about the referee because that would take away from a poor display. I would just be making an excuse, but two penalties is really poor from us.''

He added: ''I hope they're not a happy dressing room. Right throughout the middle of the team we were poor. We said, 'look you might have to weather a storm for 15 minutes.' But we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.

''That's three penalties in two away games we have given away and then we are not giving ourselves a chance. At half time we said we were still well in the tie. We just need to score a goal and they have to get two. But I was just about to get back in my seat when we were 3-0 down. So it's just a poor performance overall and I take full responsibility for that myself.''

Celtic's poor away record in Europe - they have now won just once in 28 games on the road - means Lennon was never entirely comfortable going into this match but he admits there was also a problem with the mentality of his team.

He said: ''What I said afterwards is probably best left to the privacy of the dressing room, but again I can't keep going on about home truths. I said everything I wanted to say after Ross County and I'm not just going to blame the players this time. Myself and my staff have to carry the can for this as well.

''I never had any illusions about where we are. I was always wary of this tie but didn't think we would play as badly as that. The mentality problem is there. There is no doubt about it.''

Utrecht coach Ton du Chatinier was always confident his side would mount a decent challenge at home but admits he was surprised by how comfortably they were able to overcome Celtic.

He said: ''We thought they were tougher than they played. At home, they played very well and were very sharp. Utrecht are not so strong away from home but at home we are a very, very strong team.''
 
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