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BROWN MYSTERY: NO SCAPEGOATS, INSISTS LENNON

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SCOTT BROWN was rested against Dunfermline yesterday as Celtic struggled to reach today’s Betfred League Cup quarter-final draw.

The 34-year-old skipper sat out the tense 2-1 extra-time triumph over the Fifers at Parkhead – and there was no place for Scott Sinclair in Neil Lennon’s 18-man squad for what turned out to be a nervy encounter against Championship opposition.

Brown struggled against Cluj during Tuesday’s disastrous Champions League exit where the skipper, normally so influential, had a poor game as the team toppled out of Europe’s elite tournament, beaten 4-3 on the night in front of their own fans after drawing 1-1 in the first leg in Romania the previous week.

The former Scotland international literally handed the rivals a way back into the tie when he inexplicably punched away a left-wing corner-kick in full view of the referee who had little option but to point to the penalty spot and Scott Bain had to pick the ball out of the net for the second time as the game deadlocked at 2-2.

Brown had been slow to react to a throw-in that brought Cluj their opening goal and wasn’t alert in the lead-up to the third effort that opened the door to oblivion.

Lennon revamped his starting line-up yesterday and the fans were mystified at the no-show from the skipper, but the Hoops boss insisted there were NOscapegoats at the club following the disappointment of four days earlier.

There had been criticism from all quarters for the awful display from the team’s talisman and the Irishman, speaking to the Evening Times, admitted: “Yeah, but he’s holding his hand up.

“Again, we are not here to make scapegoats or individualise. Ten years ago, I probably would have done. I’ve learned from that.

“You can analyse the defeat in many, many ways. He’s disappointed, obviously, but he has been a huge player for the club for a long, long time and will continue to be.

“It is a collective. We missed good chances and if we had taken our chances, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”

Brown and Sinclair, who missed the Cluj debacle, are likely to be in the squad for Thursday’s visit of AIK Stockholm in the opening tie of the Europa League play-off encounter with the return in Sweden seven days later.

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Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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